cover image Creatures Here Below

Creatures Here Below

O.H. Bennett. Agate, $15 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-932841-62-6

In his third novel, Bennett (The Lie) brings an African-American community to vivid life with strong and compelling characters and narrative themes to match—growing up, the struggles of parenthood and young adulthood, the responsibilities we all have to each other as people. Gail Neighbors is the single mother of two sons running a boardinghouse. The elder, Mason, is acting out, consumed with identity struggles surrounding his good-for-nothing father, Pony, while Tyler is on track, although Gail has unresolved issues with his father, Dan, a good man that she didn’t quite love. Her tenant Annie is an elderly woman who’s losing it; Jackie is a young mother struggling with the responsibilities of a newborn and the baby’s father, Perry, a privileged young white man. When Mason runs away from home, intent on hunting down his father in Washington, D.C., and killing him out of revenge for his abuse and neglect, he hitches a ride with drug dealer Ken Gamble and a mysterious young woman named Gina, with whom Mason gets involved, angering Gina’s estranged disabled boyfriend. Back home, Jackie contemplates giving up he baby to his daddy’s family until Gail steps in. Bennett handles the multiple plot lines with grace and skill, and readers will appreciate the subtle growth of the characters, as well as the diverse array of experience. (Nov.)