A novel named River Angel
featuring a character named Gabriel and a town called Ambient lays its cards on the table from the get-go: in her fourth book, A. Manette Ansay is obviously going to feature faith in a big way. As in her previous fiction, Ansay sets this tale in rural Wisconsin, but unlike her earlier work, which focused primarily on individual families, she has widened her scope to encompass an entire community. The story begins when 10-year-old Gabriel Carpenter comes to live with his aunt in Ambient, Wisconsin. An ungainly, unlovely child, Gabriel is shunned by other children and finds solace in a faith in God that verges on the fanatical. He has heard stories from his father about an angel that supposedly guards the banks of the Onion River and starts searching for it--a search that ultimately brings him to the wrong place at the wrong time and thus to the wrong angel--death.
What would have been simple tragedy in another town or another novel becomes the stuff of wonder in Ansay's Ambient: Gabriel's body is found miles from where he died, smelling faintly of flowers and glowing with an otherworldly light. From this point on, the novel focuses on how the various townspeople react to this supposed miracle. The town priest, Gabriel's teacher, the woman in whose barn his body was found--soon just about everybody in Ambient has been drawn into the conundrum of what Gabriel Carpenter's life and death really mean. As a study of human relationships and a meditation on the nature of the divine, River Angel succeeds on both counts.
From Library Journal
The tiny Wisconsin town of Ambient has visitors: there's handsome but no-good Shawn Carpenter, planning to drop his unkempt, neglected ten-year-old son, Gabriel, off for good with his brother's family near the old home place just in time for Christmas. There's also the angel local lore says lives at the river near town. As told by numerous town residents (Shawn's sister-in-law, the local real estate developer, lovely but sneaky teenager Cherish, her mother and the other ladies of the Faith Circle), the tragedy that occurs when some local punks drop Gabriel into the river vividly unfolds. Using these clear, true voices, both believers and unbelievers of the river angel story, Ansay rivals Jane Smiley in her ability to bring the small-town Midwest to life. Warmly recommended; this is a wonderful novel.?Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Radford, Vt.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.