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River Angel: A Novel Hardcover – March 18, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (March 18, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688152430
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688152437
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,886,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

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Customer Reviews

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The story is wonderful and the prose beautiful.
F. Mercer
I think Ansay is one of the better writers I've had the pleasure to read, and each of her books lends a wonderful reading experience.
Dianna Setterfield
�River Angel� is the story of how legend, belief and reality fuse in the fictional town of Ambient, Wisconsin.
Maurice Williams

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a novel about the various ways in which a town comes to grip with the aftermath of a tragedy, something that might have been easily prevented. The River Angel story springs out of the desire to correct what has gone wrong, to give meaning to what would otherwise have been a meaningless event. From the start, I was drawn into these people's lives, their individual stories and what they come to believe, as a result, about the angel that may or may not have appeared. If you are looking for an "angel story" you won't like this book. If you're looking for an in depth portrait of a town and its changing ideas about faith, you'll love this as much as I did. I thought the mother and daughter story was particularly effective. Also recommended: Midnight Champagne, Ansay's newest, and White Oleander by Janet Fitch.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dianna Setterfield on October 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have read every book written by A. Manette Ansay, and while this isn't my favorite one, it is by no means a bad book - in fact, it's great! I think Ansay is one of the better writers I've had the pleasure to read, and each of her books lends a wonderful reading experience. River Angel is just one more beautiful book to add to my collection.
Set in the small town of Ambient, Wisconsin, River Angel tells the story of a community in need of miracles. There is a local legend in town about an angel who resides near the river. No one is really sure whether to believe it or not, but a little boy named Gabriel, in need of some change in his life, goes in search for the angel anyway. Gabriel, who is a loveable, sweet character, is not a favorite of many of the town's citizens. He is chubby and bothersome and easy to tease. However, Gabriel becomes the catalyst for an amazing transformation - both for him and for many of Ambient's occupants.
A. Manette Ansay writes about several of the citizens of Ambient and their troubles in their lives. I loved hearing their stories, all their dreams and disappointments. But most importantly, I loved the writing. A. Manette Ansay is a genius in my eyes. She writes poetry without being poetic. I will forever be in her debt for the joy she has brought into my reading experiences. Can't wait for the next one!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Busy Mom VINE VOICE on August 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
A. Manette Ansay has written another beautiful book ~~ this time about an angel that has been sighted over a river in Wisconsin. It is also a story about a small town where everyone knows one another and where everyone knows of its neighbor's struggles. The story is centered around a little boy named Gabriel. Gabriel was dumped in this town, Ambient, by his father who deserted him. Fat and unlovable, Gabriel is a devout Christian and is always found to be praying. Picked on and abused, Gabriel continues to slug along ~~ till one day, he is discovered in a neighbor's barn, dead.

The story focuses on Gabriel, his aunt who was raising him, several members of a prayer circle, and one of the daughters of the town who was part of the fateful events of the evening that Gabriel is later found dead. The stories entwined with one another in small ways ~~ it's written more like short stories combined to make one novel about a town. Ansay writes with her usual lyrical style about different lives of people and their secret joys and disappointments and how it all meshed together with the legend of the River Angel that people have taken to be their local lore.

It is a very interesting book ~~ dark and depressing in places though but beautifully written and with a grace that is evident in each of the characters written. Ansay is not an easy author to read sometimes but her stories are always compelling and brings the reader further into the book. This is an excellent read ~~ perfect for a bookclub discussion.

8-24-04
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By F. Mercer on December 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
When I first started reading this novel, I found the point of view shifts to be quite annoying and jarring--they seemed to interrupt the flow of the novel. By 1/3 in, I was hooked--I wanted to know what was happening to all these characters, and how they might be connected. For such a brief novel, the characters are well-drawn and multi-dimensional. The characters come in and out of the story just as if they are friends and acquaintances, the people you run into in your own hometown. The story is wonderful and the prose beautiful.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
In this masterful novel, every word is measured, each character is acutely drawn. The author captures the essence of an individual with a phrase, or a gesture. The "coda" at the end of the novel beautifully transforms this tale of residents of a small Wisconsin town into a sort of fable for all of us. Ansay is gifted at recognizing the small, simple details that vividly define the citizens of Ambient, so that the reader feels she intimately knows each one personally after only a paragraph or two. This book reads (too) quickly, but stays with the reader long after.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By BC on April 16, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have always been intrigued with small towns. The people, their thinking, how they came to be there, why they chose to live in a small town, if born there why some leave and some do not, the local stores/shops, the eateries, the recreational activities of all ages.

I am also intrigued with the concept of angels. I am a believer in many things - I choose to believe in spirits and signs and fate and the unknown and the hereafter.

This book delivers tremendous insight into these intrigues. I LOVED this story. It is deeply emotional. Ansay does a beautiful job in portraying the lives of select townspeople. And in sprinkling the question of the existence of angels gently upon us. Because I am open to all things spiritual, I am even more a believer of angels - mystical beings - after reading this book.

I am enthralled with Ansay's books so far. The only other novel I had read of hers before this one was FABULOUS - Blue Water. I happened upon the paperback while on vacation years back and upon finishing it, I was an immediate fan of the author. Don't miss THAT story either.
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