The award-winning “Down Right Good” tells the poignant adventures of ten-year-old Angie who was born with Down syndrome. She develops a limited vocabulary but has the ability to see angels. She bikes around her town, delivering the weekly community tabloid, seeing the pain in the people who live at each stop. Their stories of abuse and bitterness, unforgiveness and self-hatred, loneliness and grief, bullying and sacrifice, are woven into the events of one Saturday. Whatever hurt she finds, she names it, and she speaks simple truths with almost heavenly insight. Not everyone can accept her frank evaluation.
Author Karen Kelly Boyce based the protagonist on a childhood acquaintance. Her character, Moma, who is raising Angie and her older brother, embodies all those grandmothers that faithfully care for a second generation. The theme of the book centers on the third joyful mystery, the birth of Christ, as Karen presents the joy of the good news of salvation. She weaves the truth of the Catholic Church into many situations with no preaching.
Karen begins each chapter with a scripture verse. Yes, that is essential to her theme, but I found myself returning to that verse when I finished each chapter. Maybe I needed that verse again to consider its implications to the characters and to my life.
The strong faith of Catholics and Protestants, affluent citizens and immigrants, handicapped and strong, youngsters and old folks, hides just under the surface and ready for you to discover. The appearance of angels is not limited to the heavenly beings because demons also show their influence. To her detriment, Angie cannot see the demons.
The heartbreaking stories make you weep, but romance, reconciliation and new life emerge from the ruins of the miserable lives of both the haters and the self-righteous on Angie’s Saturday paper route. Just when you think there is no way God can redeem the twisted results of so many wrong choices, Angie surprises everyone with her candid wisdom. The playful way she delivers the punch lines of absolute honesty will make you laugh even in the gravest and most impossible circumstance. Even the tragic ending brings redemption.
Somehow if Angie can love those who torment or abandon, misunderstand or barely tolerate her, so can we. If she reaches them with her honesty, unwavering faith and childish boldness, surely we can see their potential for goodness. Angie reminds us that God speaks his love through the guileless words of those who appear the weakest, from those we least expect to deliver his perspective.
I discovered “Down Right Good” at the Catholic Writers Convention after renewing my acquaintance with the author, Karen Kelly Boyce. At first I thought Angie’s story might interest my school-age grandchildren. After reading it I understand that, like many classic stories about children, the deeper message is for adults.
(© 2013 Nancy H C Ward)