The Absence of Angels

Nov 15th, 1995 | By | Category: 7-3: Investing, Media Reviews

by W.S. Penn
University of Oklahoma Press: Norman, 1995

Review by Faith Hagenhofer

The “absence of angels” referred to in the title is a place of absolute knowledge, a region of the before and afterlife, that is shared by the novel’s main character – Alley Hummingbird –and his grandfather, a Nez Perce elder.  It is where Grandfather’s teachings come from, where his strength to divert Death’s call on Alley comes from, and where Alley connects to the depths of his Indian heritage in his times of greatest need.  The characters throughout are lovingly described–from Alley’s Indian father who has rejected his culture, and his mother who is more than a little crazy, to his friend Sara and his academic support system, the Tompsons.  There are many other richly different characters, including Death himself, who is variously described as a seedy, mean, not too smart, RV-driving tourist or a hard-hat wearing miner who is easily diverted and sulks when he doesn’t get his way. This story is told by Alley. It is the story of a young man’s life from birth to dawning adulthood, a story of preparing for the future.

Faith Hagenhofer is the librarian at the Nisqually Tribal Library in Olympia, Wash.

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