If you read just one literary novel this year – and if you’re not afraid of fiction that feels like it’s drawn from life at its grittiest, or to get into the skin of characters who will be utterly believable to you from beginning to end — Angie’s Story by Steve Weintz is the book I suggest.
First, though, a disclaimer: I am the award-winning author, former NYTBR reviewer, and writing coach who worked with Steve on Angie’s Story, though I merely made suggestions and Steve did all the work.
At first, it was hard for me to believe that this riveting, nuanced story of one woman’s life, was, almost incredibly, being written by a man. And though the book is fiction, if you view Steve’s YouTube video (search under Steve Weintz), you’ll see that, yes, Steve is “Tom,” or at least very much like him — the kind but inexperienced character who tries to save Angie from her choices. Once a devout Catholic, and the mother of five children, Angie has turned to a life of prostitution in order to earn a living for her family, a life she finds addictive and comes to embrace, leading to inevitable tragedy. There’s never a missed beat, as Steve leads us through her squalid days and nights and her ever-increasing degradation. In the end, to his credit, Angie’s devastating choices have been rendered totally believable to the reader.
As I read his manuscript, especially in its final incarnations, I thought of the late Larry Brown’s compelling account of one woman’s life in his tour de force novel, Fay, and also of Larry McMurty, author of, among many other books, Terms of Endearment, because of Steve’s skill at writing in a woman’s voice. Angie’s Story reminded me, too, of the movie classic, Blue Angel, starring Marlene Dietrich and based on the novel by Heinrich Mann in which a naïve professor is taken advantage of by a corrupt, hardened woman.
Indeed, Steve Weintz and Angie’s Story deserves to be included with this pantheon of great writing by men about women; his writing is that deep, that good. Above all, he is a fine, committed author who has been willing to work hard on his craft, and to get it right, giving his readers the pay off they deserve.
As a Kirkus reviewer commented, “Weintz’s writing is crisp and sharp as he stylishly unfolds the doomed love story of Angie and Tom. . . A taut, lurid account of the lowest levels of American life that probes behind the mask of propriety and raises questions about the line between emotional and physical love.”
Way to go, Steve! And I – as well as your other readers – are already looking forward to your future books.
Rosemary Daniell is the award-winning author of Fatal Flowers: On Sin, Sex and Suicide in the Deep South, and seven other books. Visit her web site: http://www.myzonarosa.com