Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review: "Paper Angels", by Billy Coffey

Billy Coffey showed promise with his first novel,  "Snow Day", which was good overall, and great in places. But the leap forward from "Snow Day" to "Paper Angels" is a giant one for the author. From the very beginning, this story had my attention, and it never let go.

The main character, Andy Sommerville, is a lifelong bachelor who owns a gas station. A severe injury puts him in the hospital and forces him to face many non-physical wounds from his past. Wounds which didn't so much shape him into the man he is as much as they derailed him somewhat from what he was made to be. As he is shown the meaning and importance of each of these hurts (represented by various mementos he had collected over the years), a new friend named Elizabeth helps guide him, addressing each wound by first peeling back the bandages that had covered them, sometimes for decades.

Most people have wounds that have stayed with us for years. What sets Andy apart is that he has a personal angel, provided by God as an answer to a boyhood prayer, who has stuck by Andy all his life, encouraging him to learn life lessons--and to save those mementos--along the way. Andy keeps the existence of his angel a secret from all who know him, which contributes to his tendency to distance from people, costing him an important relationship or two along the way.

The previous paragraph could lead the potential reader to consider "Paper Angels" as a print version of a lame episode of "Touched By An Angel", but nothing could be less accurate. It bears more of a resemblance to "The Kid", a powerful story disguised as a lighthearted Disney kids' movie starring Bruce Willis, than any angel-centered movie or TV show I can think of. Sadly, I can't explain more without giving too much away. I will say this, though: the supernatural aspect of an angel is not a big part of the story. From one chapter to the next, it is simply about Andy, with the help of Elizabeth the counselor, learning about his past one piece at a time, in order for the healing to begin. The result is a truly powerful book which, if I had my way, would be read by everyone important to me.  It's that good.

Hachette Books provided me with a free copy of "Paper Angels" for review purposes, with the only obligation to give an honest review. That said, I am recommending "Paper Angels" as strongly as anything I have read in at least a year, maybe two. It comes out in November. It can be pre-ordered here.

3 comments:

katdish said...

It really is difficult to express the power of this book without giving too much away, but you've captured it well here. Thanks, James.

Billy Coffey said...

Thanks so much, James. So happy you enjoyed it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting me borrow it. If it's 1/2 as good as you say I'll buy it and pass around. So many are "walking wounded" when we're Redeemed. Craig P.