Thomas E Kennedy
In the Company of Angels throbs with pain on almost every page. The central character, Nardo, is in Copenhagen for treatment at a rehabilitation centre after suffering years of torture under the regime of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Michaela, a Danish woman with whom Nardo begins a relationship, has endured years of beatings from her ex-husband, and her teenage daughter is dead following a drugs overdose. Not only that, but her father is dying from cancer and her mother has dementia.
What could easily have descended into the maudlin emerges as a moving love story woven from a delicate web of emotions. Though Kennedy’s prose is occasionally stilted and self-conscious, it is mostly clean and elegant, in stark contrast to the intense inner turmoil experienced by many of the characters.
There’s a scene at the end of the book in which one of the protagonists, Voss, is transfixed by the beauty of a sculpture carved from a tree in a Copenhagen park. Years ago, Copenhagen’s elms had incurred a horrible blight and instead of chopping them down, city officials commissioned local artists to transform the trees into graceful sculptures. In this remarkable book, Kennedy has done the same for the ravaged hearts of his characters.