Angels Crest
Leslie Schwartz
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Angels Crest

Leslie Schwartz
320 pages
June 2004
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Angels Crest maintains a quiet, close-knit community, unencumbered by the cacophonous rattle of city life. Here things are simple, elemental, close to nature’s bounty and cautiously respecting its power. People tend to know one another and take pleasure in that knowledge. So everyone is aware when Ethan finally wins an acrimonious custody battle for his three-year old son, Nathan. Cindy, too lost in the oblivion of alcohol, has finally conceded that her son should be with his father.

Gaining custody is no small victory for Ethan. He adores his son and views Nathan as his “touchstone”, thrilled with the parental role. In fact, Ethan is filled with joy when he pulls over to track a couple of bucks a few days before hunting season begins. He can smell the new snow on the air. Just for a moment, Ethan leaves his son sleeping in the truck, tracking the game for a few seconds. How could he imagine that the child would be gone when he returned?

In this pristine mountain town, there are many places to hide. Too many. That night, the weather is bitterly cold and few hold out hope for the little boy, although no one dares articulate this thought, as nearly the entire town turns out for the search. Those few careless moments change Ethan's world forever.

The citizens of Angels Crest are hard put to work through the life problems that have so entangled them: Cindy, a failure as a mother, senses the desperate need in the grieving Ethan; Glick, Nathan’s best friend, closes off his feelings, shut down by his own past; Nathan cannot forgive himself, stunned that a moment of stupidity could merit such unfathomable consequences; the town’s only gay couple struggles to fit in, but both women throw themselves into the search for the child; one of these women has a son, George, a boy she abandoned, who has returned to claim his rage. Instead, mother and son are drawn toward understanding, thanks to the ethereal, very pregnant Melody.

Schwartz's vision is multi-hued, a rainbow of emotions - estranged parent-child relationships, alternative lifestyles and the intense media attention brought on by the child‘s disappearance. Yet the real power of Angels Crest is its forgiveness, as the author exposes the hearts of her characters, with their human flaws and disappointments, each carrying a private burden. Blinded by pain, it is often impossible to believe the weight of tragedy can be lifted or even made bearable. But in the sharing of that grief, in that community, there is healing and comfort.

Angels Crest is about children, how some of them are lost and found again, about learning to navigate the world with all its harsh lessons and the many ways people get lost, from others and themselves. Schwartz's characters have known dark nights of the soul, been found wanting; but the innocence of children reminds them of those precious opportunities, the moments of epiphany, when the sky opens and the heart begins to heal.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2004

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