Dirty Little Angels is a short debut novel by Chris Tusa. When the book was pitched to me, it was in the realm of “if you liked The Glass Castle, you might like this…” It has also been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird. For the record, I loved The Glass Castle and TKM. I did not love this one.
Set in New Orleans, the story revolves around Hailey – a sixteen-year-old girl caught in a crumbling family: a lazy, drunk, cheating father; an overly religious mother depressed after a recent miscarriage; and an angry, druggie, felon brother. If this weren’t bad enough, she’s got a whorish best friend and her ‘crush’ is her best friend’s boyfriend who thinks nothing of taking Hailey’s virginity while Meridian (the friend/girl friend) is passed out in the next room.
Two redeeming characters who – in their own way – offer Hailey a way out are Verma, a long time family friend who is not quite the ‘blind prophet’ but close, and Mr. Guidry, husband to Hailey’s father’s mistress who is dying of cancer.
However, they don’t, or Hailey doesn’t take advantage of what she’s offered.
The novel is about 150 pages, and perhaps the best way to describe it is to tell what my experience was like reading it. In the first 50 pages I was thinking that Tusa has created some pretty good and memorable characters, but they lacked a story. During the second third of the book, a story started to emerge, and I was beginning to see some opportunities for hope and redemption. Then, the last 50 pages or so were anguishing in their lack of hope and redemption.
I’m all for dark – frequent readers here know that. However, when the primary character is 16 and insightful, I expect her to take advantage of her opportunities and get out – not succumb to the evil and despair of her environment. In this way, Hailey is nothing like Jeannette or Scout (of The Glass Castle and To Kill a Mockingbird).
I get the realism of Dirty Little Angels. New Orleans – and the South – is full of trashy settings, despicable characters, tragic plot and loathsome inheritances. But, like a good friend of mine says about movies, “I don’t go for the truth, I go to be entertained,” I expect more than abject realism in a story; I think that’s why they call it fiction.
This review was completed at the request of the author.
Powered by Facebook Comments