The Greek word Arcadia evokes a pastoral vision of harmony with nature, a utopia, an Edenic form of life. In the Arcadia, Florida of L.C. Flore’s award-winning Green Gospel, the city’s distance from the state’s popular tourist destinations has so far saved its surrounding marshland from Florida’s rabid development craze. But development accompanied by all the usual ugly sprawl is encroaching on Arcadia in the form of a huge residential subdivision.
The Reverend Reginald Dancer can look out the window of his popular mega-church, across the failed solar farm, and watch the encroaching cranes and bulldozers attack the marshland. As if the unsightly development isn’t enough of a insult to the environmental message of his ministry, his marriage has failed and his church is going broke. Dancer’s problems are not the only ones addressed in Flore’s novel. A sheriff’s deputy and his wife grieve over the loss of a teenage daughter to a kidnapping; And a mother is on the verge of losing her two sons who have been traumatized by their now absent father’s PTSD.
What these people need is an angel. What they get is a fugitive eco-terrorist from Oregon, Edie Aberdeen alias Edie Richardson. But this angel didn’t fall from heaven. Before coming to Arcadia, she tumbled sixty feet from a giant redwood tree she tried to save from the lumbermen’s saws. After a long recovery from her extensive injuries, she joined a group vandalizing SUVs and accidently killed the boyfriend who had nursed her to health when he tried to stop her from her mission. She lands in Arcadia after avoiding gang rape by the truck load of undocumented immigrants she hitched a ride with during her escape.
Once ensconced in Arcadia, Edie takes on the role of an angel. She bears a striking resemblance to the deputy’s daughter. She becomes a nanny for the troubled boys and gets involved in Rev. Dancer’s church though she espouses no religious faith. She even poses as the live angel atop the church’s Christmas tree. But her true compassion is reserved for the environment and the stray cats she feeds in her spare time. Tension mounts as time runs out on the Reverend Dancer’s church. The boys’ disturbed father comes home to disrupt their mother’s life and undo the progress they’ve made under Edie’s care. Then the FBI gets hot on the trail of Arcadia’s angel.
There are wounds everywhere in Green Gospel—wounded environment, wounded bodies, wounded psyches. Flores explores those wounds in a string of beautifully written characters’ back stories and weaves them into an engrossing tale of healing wrapped in a unique apocalyptic vision.