Strange Angels

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In STRANGE ANGELS, Jonis Agee describes life among ranchers in the Nebraska sandhills as effectively as she explored the midwestern small town in her first novel, STRANGE EYES (1991). The inhabitants of this world accept it as a place where only tough people can survive. However, when the will of the rancher Heywood Bennett is read, his three adult children, each by a different mother, discover that they are faced with additional problems. Instead of leaving separate bequests, Bennett has set up his estate so that it cannot be divided, evidently hoping that thus he would force his offspring to overcome long-standing animosities and forge a real family unit.

The provisions of Bennett’s will are especially disappointing for his legitimate son, Arthur Bennett, who runs the family business. Arthur had hoped to get rid of his brother, Cody Kidwell, in part because he is worried about Cody’s influence over their wild half-sister, Kya Bennett, who seems to be bent on self-destruction. Arthur is further infuriated by Cody’s involvement with the widow and ranch-owner Latta Jaboy because he fears that a lovers’ quarrel may imperil his own business dealings with her. Cody, in turn, is determined to prevent his ambitious brother from endangering the ranch and the environment.

This family drama is played out in the midst of barroom brawls and branding accidents, with a cast of drunken cowboys, wise Native Americans, vicious rustlers, and, in one hilarious episode, urban investors trying to play cowboy. However, there is more than suspense in STRANGE ANGELS. It is also a story of spiritual awakening, as under the spell of ancient magic, the Bennett children find new dimensions for their lives.