This is the second time I've read this book, and it was even better this time - something I can say for very few others. I almost never reread books. I'm glad I made an exception.
"The Angel of 13th Street" is not just a wonderful, brilliantly-written book, it's also an important one.
The story is about Noah, a 30-ish guy who owns a successful bar and the failing coin-op laundry adjacent to it. Jeremy is an 18-year-old homeless kid running from the pimps who want to turn him out because he's hot and looks much younger than his years - a pedophile's delight and a rich potential source of revenue.
Noah "rescues" Jeremy whom he finds, late at night, doing his laundry in Noah's laundromat. He feeds him, gives him a place to stay and nourishes and encourages the bright, good-looking young man. And no, not for sex (although Noah finds him attractive), but because Noah has a mission - to help as many boys as he can escape life on the streets, life as prostitutes being passed from one man to another, enriching the wealthy pimps and losing their hopes and souls in their desperate desire to live another day, sleep in a warm bed, with a full stomach.
There are two threads that comprise most of the story - the painful journey of these lost kids and the fight (sometimes violent) to rescue them from the predators who use them. The other thread is primarily about Noah, whose early-and-only love of his life ended up becoming one of those amoral pimps - in fact, one of the top ones in the city. Noah, as it turns out, also worked the streets, as a young man, turned out, in fact, by his lover, Billy. He has never gotten over the guilt and the betrayal that haunts him every day of his life - the guilt and betrayal that left him damaged and alone, unwilling to risk his heart again. Jeremy is the only one who's ever brought him out of his shell, implanted the seed that has flourished and grown into a new belief that, perhaps, Noah might be able to love someone again.
It's a beautiful love story about two men, separated in age by 12 years, but bound by their big hearts and their shared desire to do good. It's also a thriller, with both men constantly under threat from the monied interests of the pimps and the Johns who employ them. There is kidnapping, shooting, murder and then false charges lodged against Noah with the press gleefully branding him a mass kidnapper and murderer. Yes, many boys have disappeared shortly after being seen with Noah, but those boys are hardly dead - they are the ones he saved from their degrading lives, fed, clothed and put on a bus for home.
What an extraordinarily well-written book. There's not a word astray, not a line of dialogue or plot that's anything less than painfully real and believable. Ms. Winters is a wonderful writer.
In "The Angel of 13th Street", she tackles a difficult, and rarely addressed problem suffered by too many young people - a disproportionate share of them LGBT kids. Kicked out of their homes by their irresponsible or religious-bigot parents, there are more than 1.6 million kids in America today who are forced to commit crimes, or sell their bodies, just to stay alive. It's like a Third-World nightmare dropped into the midst of our cities. It's also a national shame. There's always another man willing to pay to exploit a child, to rob him or her of their innocence, their childhood and their future. And we are damned well not doing enough to help them - in fact, we're doing almost nothing.
That's why I support two of the best LGBT youth support organizations in the nation: The Hetrick-Martin Institute, which provides food, shelter, counseling and educational opportunities to homeless LGBTQ youth (for more, read here: http://www.hmi.org/); and The Ali Forney Center, whose mission is: "to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood." Read more here: http://www.aliforneycenter.org/. Most major cities and almost all states have similar organizations tasked with addressing the daunting problem of homeless LGBTQ youths. Please find one in your community, reach out to help these forgotten and abandoned young people. Donate, volunteer, don't let these kids be invisible any more. They desperately need to know that someone gives a damn about them!
Thank you, Ms. Winters, for making this problem so real and so moving. Hopefully, it will cause other people to get involved and energized to help these kids.
Do I recommend this book? With all my heart.
- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 8452 KB
- Print Length: 226 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Rocky Ridge Books; Second edition (5 March 2016)
- Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01C2P770G
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Customer Reviews: 7 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #759,666 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)