Karla Starr
August 25, 2006 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Although Angel’s Rest takes place in ’60s Sunnyside, Va., the whiff of biscuits and tobacco juice veers a bit close to Southern Clichéville, USA. Narrating with breathless naïveté, 11-year-old Charlie York begins the story after his perfect dad — mayor and TV-store owner — dies from a suspicious shotgun blast. After his mother is arrested for the murder, she leaves Charlie in the hands of a family friend, an ”old colored man” who becomes a surrogate father figure. Despite some cringe-worthy stock characters (crazy man Hollis Thrasher, prejudiced Granddaddy) and the tiresome Tom Sawyerish tone, Charles Davis’ satisfying plot twists have a heartfelt kick.

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