Books May 2001

New & Noteworthy

More

In the Company of Angels

Luscious and heartrending, although somewhat insubstantial, this slim first novel with a hellish setting, Belgium under Nazi occupation, overflows with miracles. A child's heart rises from her chest in the shape of the Star of David; a dead father embraces his daughter and teaches her to make chocolate; a postulant leads a family from an air-raid shelter before the shelter is destroyed by a bomb. The story begins in March of 1941, in France. A little Jewish girl is helping her grandmother save her prized hybrid bulbs when their village is bombed. From that moment, heaven begins to twine with earth, until it is impossible to say what is divinity and what is madness; who is an angel and who is not. Two nuns rescue the girl from a cellar by luring her out with chocolate—"the one thing the angels said they could not get in heaven"—and take her with them over the Belgian border to their convent in Tournai, a town that once boasted "sightings of God" "as common as air," but from whence, since the occupation, he seems to have slipped away.

In some ways In the Company of Angels, which is really a novella, suffers from its brevity. N. M. Kelby packs her book with monumental themes—death, betrayal both grand and personal, familial and romantic love, faith, the existence of God—but doesn't give herself room to do more than brush against most of them. Complex and conflicting relationships abound, but in most cases we have to take her word for their intensity; Kelby devotes little space to their development. At heart, however, this is a fable, and as such, it benefits from Kelby's fleeting touch, which enhances the whimsical and the miraculous. Above all, the writing, as sensuous as the chocolate that pervades Kelby's story, makes this well worth reading.

Jump to comments
Presented by
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Remote Warehouse Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where the Wild Things Go

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Adults Need Playtime Too

When was the last time you played your favorite childhood game?

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In