Set on the backroads and small towns of an unspecified part of America, there’s a dreamlike quality to Moira Young’s new novel, which is filled with angels, ghosts, and the spirit of the movies too. Yet at the same time, it’s one of the most vivid, lively, uplifting and funniest books of the year.
Davy David is an orphan. His home is a den in the graveyard and he makes some sort of living sweeping pictures in the dust. He copies his pictures from his favourite library book, Renaissance Angels. Some of the people of the town of Brownvale are kind to him, others are anything but. Pastor Fall for example, a hypocrite who sternly preaches one thing while practising the opposite. When Davy catches him out in this, no matter how hard he protests he’ll keep the pastor’s secret, the boy knows he’ll have to leave town. Fate, or something more than that because there’s definitely something inhabiting the wind that stirs up the town’s dust, brings him to Miss Flint, an eccentric old lady, equally determined to leave Brownvale. The two unlikely travelling companions pile into Miss Flint’s car and hit the road, 13 year old Davy at the wheel, a stray dog named George Bailey in the back (It’s a Wonderful Life is one of Davy’s favourite films).
It’s on their journey that a miracle occurs, ‘something wonderful’ says Davy. Their destination is Miss Flint’s childhood home and she’s planned to take her own life when they arrive. Instead, as they get nearer their destination in a variety of vehicles, including a stolen truck loaded with turkeys, motorcycle and side car, and stolen police car, Miss Flint travels in a different direction. At the end of the road there’s a home to be made for Davy, and peace and redemption at last for Lizzie Flint.
The story asks readers to accept the miraculous, and rewards them in return with a beautifully written story, full of memorable characters and scenes, and the sense that life can indeed be wonderful if you follow the right road.