The Angels’ Share
By: Garfield Ellis
Published by:Akashic Books
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Reviewed by: Vickie Fang
Some novels are heavy on theme; they have an urgent message and they’re going to make damn sure the reader gets it. Other novels prefer to unspool almost as randomly as life does, indulging in the sensations of the moment and the quirks of day to day existence, while leaving the reader to wonder what, if anything, it all means. This moving father/son story combines the best of both aesthetic worlds. The Angels’ Share takes a young man on a long, meandering journey in search of an elusive woman called Hope. It teaches him how to live along the way, but it does so with such a gentle touch that the reader is more conscious of the beauty of the Jamaican countryside and the eccentricities of an old man than with any lesson being taught. By the novel’s end, we’ve come near to achieving the sort of appreciation of life that Ellis teaches his young hero. It’s an enormously satisfying book.
The book begins with an hysterical phone call to Everton Dorril, a marketing executive living in the city, from his stepmother who tells him that his father has disappeared. Everton who is scheduled to make the most important presentation of his life, frantically tries to find his father, get to his meeting, and persuade his brother to be of some help all at the same time. Anyone who has ever been badly frightened and made a series of missteps can understand poor Everton. By the time he learns that his father is at the police station after wrecking his car, he’s so overwrought that he misunderstands the officer who tells him that his father is waiting for him in the rec room.
I stagger through the door, my head harboring images of a room filled with wrecks — men with broken bones, men in handcuffs too sinful to move; visions of an old man suffering, broken and lonely. Why hadn’t they taken him to a hospital? Only Jamaican policemen would come up with a wreck room — a place of torture for people who break the law . . .
Instead, Everton finds the old man playing dominoes, “shouting at the top of his lungs, laughing in the face of the man beside him, having revealed his winning hand of dominoes only to slam them one by one with a sound like thunder on the table before him.”
And so it goes for Everton who constantly underestimates his irrepressible father and who is persuaded to drive the old man all over rural Jamaica on a seemingly meaningless quest. Eventually, Everton comes to understand.
I realize that this is a man who is tying up loose ends. He is reaching backward into his life to make sure it is complete. . . Father has made a sum of his life and found it less than full. . . What will he do when discovers that perhaps we will never be a hundred percent of what we can be . . . that some of our dreams and possibilities will evaporate — be taken by angels. . .
In the end, both men learn to be satisfied with a life that will never be a hundred percent, but will still be good enough if they only learn to embrace it.