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SOUTH OF THE ANGELS by Jessamyn West



Pub Date: April 20th, 1960
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

The many varieties, manifestations and qualities of love encompass the settlers of The Tract, which in 1916 was opened up south of Los Angeles....and often very south of the angels. Of the 17 families, 96 people, who succumb to realtor Sylvester Perkins' salesmanship, this centers around: -- the families of Shelby Lewis; Luther Cope; the Reverend LeRoy Raunce; Basil Cudlip; Wendlin Jessup; and stud-like Tom Mount, spinster Eunice Fry, widow Opal Tetford, withdrawn Asa Brice. There are also the Mexicans, Rosa and Pete Ramos, and Pete's long-standing responsibility, Julian Ortiz, who watch their old land divided among the whites, try to be neighbors, are rebuffed but finally accepted -- by all but Cudlip, whose venomous discrimination promotes dissension and provokes violence. Lewis has aimed ""to own my own place"" and when his dream outpaces his practicality he tries for a smaller ambition; Raunce has come from an oil driller to a late Son of God but his Quaker ministry of gratitude is suspect; Cope's inability to understand his wife, Indiana Rose, has almost scarred his daughter Press but Chad Lewis resolves her fears; Mary Jessup, dying, finds she is able to live in her love for her husband -- and her Quaker religion; while the coming of the war in 1917 fires Cudlip to dangerous activity. The Ramons and Ortiz are victims of Cudlip's hate; the children of these parents -- Medora Cudlip defying her father in her love for Julian Ortiz, Crystal Raunce denying her parents' religion and married happiness, Ellen Shelby romantic about Tom Mount but learning love from Ben Jessup, and their younger brothers and sisters -- learn a tenderness and endurance through drought, flood, freeze and the community's affairs. And Eunice, among others succumbing to Tom Mount, finds another way to become the woman she wants to be through Asa Brice's decision to return to society while Perkins, whose greed for easy gains has brought this all about, loses everything when he is tried for fraud. A panorama, small in scale but large in scope, this is a microcosm of humanity, - at odds and together, understanding and ignoring, growing inwardly with only a few outward signs, seldom successful but never completely failing -- and accomplishes an emphatic -- and lusty (at times lustful) -- segment of a particular time and place. The Friendly Persuasion here is fallible -- hopeful.