Set during one summer in the early 1950’s in a house at the end of a dirt road Cage of Human Hearts portrays the jagged affection and hostility between Joey, three other foster-children living in the house, and their care-giver, Ollie, an enormous, bombastic man, ruthlessly ambitious, a self-educated garbage truck driver just starting his church of non-traditional beliefs and who, foreseeing the vast potential of television, dreams of profit and influence far greater than any preacher had achieved using radio. Joey (13), just released from jail after running away from another foster-home, the Okers, who beat and mistreated him, is being driven to Ollie’s house by two social workers, Rev. Baldwin and Mrs. Horson. He is dark-skinned, possibly bi-racial, bright and musically gifted. Ollie, Joey’s antagonist, is a huge man, has gout and walks using a cane, is physically and verbally forceful, bombastic but charming, is fouled with racial bigotry, an easy embrace of violence, murder, and fears that impel him to build bomb shelters in his backyard and under his church as protection from the bloody disintegration of society he anticipates from an impending race war and/or nuclear cataclysm between the US and USSR. Within moments of their meeting Ollie is offended by Joey’s skin color and his quiet rebelliousness and Joey recognizes Ollie as the most evil human being he has ever met. Thus the novel’s two major characters and its two storylines--Ollie’s and Joey’s--are engaged in battle. As Ollie connives, possibly murders a cohort to build his church, the parallel theme of Joey’s coming-of-age/initiation-into-adulthood story develops as he confronts, at times runs from, unavoidable forces: embarrassing, unfamiliar physical desires, the allure of a whimsical and understanding woman, tenderness and compassion that overwhelm him at times and the conflict, fear and hatred in his relationship with Ollie. Cage of Human Hearts exemplifies Joey’s (13), Katy’s (16), Bobby’s (8) and Marcy’s (11) energy, joy, comedy and wonderment, their talents and wily adaptability as they cope with Ollie, the unpredictable explosiveness of other adults they encounter daily, and worse, the confusing behavior they see in adults: hate/love, truth/deception, friendliness/murder, sex/abuse, smiles/scorn, each pairing halved and quartered and razor-blade sliced into nuances too subtle for their years of experience on this planet. Cage of Human Hearts is not a victim novel, nor a sad tale. On the contrary, it portrays individuals with severe hardships, who refuse to be overwhelmed and defeated, but will fight, work and excel in life. During their struggles hits are taken, wounds heal to raw scars. Thus character is formed and distorted subtly or markedly, and though there is much in life to be optimistic about, much to struggle against and overcome, there is a sober recognition that things in life happen to people that cannot be overcome.
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JR Peske BRIEF BIO & NOTES ~~~~~ ~~~~~ JR Peske lives in the US, a former professor of literature, and long-time novelist who has also written, and is currently editing two other novels and several short pieces. He writes few short pieces, but three of which—One Bullet, Confession, Slippers have been published in the literary magazine Iconoclast. One Bullet is about a boy who spies on the dog catcher in a small town and the brutal way he disposes of dogs; the story turns on the shocking, ironic consequences to this ‘executioner’.; Confession is an erotic monologue of a man who speaks to a woman in a secluded room. She does not speak. Entire scene is conveyed by the man; Slippers is one long section of my memoir and covers several days, via much dialogue and detail, the extraordinary experiences of a paranoid schizophrenic in a mental ward of a local hospital. I intend to publish these three pieces as a unit in the near future under What I Write About When I Write, or Festering Love. Though my original concept for CAGE of HUMAN HEARTS was for one novel, the breadth of the story and its complex characters have generated notes for a sequel. My credentials to write about Ollie’s character come from growing up in the national center of early televangelism and having direct/indirect contact with these personalities, all of which gave me a gritty reality to draw upon. Ollie, though, is not based in substance or detail upon any individual but is entirely of my imagination, as are the other characters or events.. Research, including interviews, provided the background information about children placed in foster homes during this period. I have also sought the responses of readers--high school seniors to professors of literature--to the sex, racism, violence, and humor, in the novel.
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Book Description CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: Brand New. 390 pages. 9.00x6.00x0.88 inches. This item is printed on demand. Bookseller Inventory # zk1482698269