A thoroughly enjoyable sequel to Worthy’s Town (2000): an anecdotal story featuring the rascals and waifs of Depression-era small-town Illinois.
When last we saw Worthy and Cappy Giberson, the father and son (though he and the late Willa raised the boy; Cappy is really Worthy’s grandson) were about to part ways as young Cappy prepared to put his storytelling skills to use as a journalism major in college. Now, WWII is over and Cappy is out of school, returning to Old Kane to look for work at an area paper. Also reappearing is Drayton Hunt, just released from prison, and, so he claims, a changed man. Drayton, Cappy’s biological father (Cappy’s unmarried teenage mother died in childbirth), is hoping to finally reconcile with his son, but more than a jailhouse conversion and a promise to be good are required for the bitter young man, who blames Hunt for the death of his mother and best friend. Meanwhile, long-lost brother Tick (gorgeous to look at but a bit soft in the head) is done assisting the flamboyant traveling evangelist Reverend Art (while also serving as the Reverend’s bed-warmer) is making his way home, having given up on God and looking forward to farming with Worthy. With all characters converging on Old Kane, the dust begins to stir: Drayton seeks Bible lessons from the local preacher, who has a far-too-appreciative eye for Drayton’s slim physique; Cappy begins a hesitant flirtation with the headstrong Oleeta; an African-American woman may be somewhere in the town passing for white; and a young girl is raped, with all gossiping fingers wrongly pointed at Drayton Hunt. All the while Cappy is scraping by as a freelancer, sending these stories to a St. Louis paper, hoping for his big break as a writer. Rolens is a subtle narrator, exposing the prejudices and provinciality of Old Kane (the whole town just loves the amateur minstrel show they put on) along with a seamier side of life that even quaint rural living has no immunity from.
A balanced and evocative saga of everyday American life after the war.