For readers of the original Agee/Evans collaboration, "And Their Children" is well worth the time. The reporter and photographer tracked down the 116 living offspring of the pseudonymous Gudger, Ricketts, and Woods families, as well as those who were part of the original book (12 of 22 who appeared in "Let Us Now" were still alive when they began their research in 1986). Not all were willing to be interviewed or photographed, but many were.
As with the first book, the tale here is not a particularly happy one. The author begins by recounting the suicide of Maggie Louise Gudger, age 10 in 1936, a particular favorite of Agee's, and dead at age 45--the same age at which Agee himself died from drink. And yet there are varying degrees of hope in many of the stories, such as that of Maggie Louise's daughter Debbie and her children.
The structure of the book follows each family through different periods: 1936-1940; 1940-1960; and 1960-1986. The author also includes sections on one of the local landowning families (which was far from rich!) and an African-American sharecropping family. Along the way, we learn surprising things about the evil (and Faulknerian) Fred Ricketts, the fate of Clair Bell (she did not die at age 4, as Agee had feared she would), the struggles of George Gudger, and the families' views on Agee, Evans, and the original book. About the children and grandchildren, we find out about those who ran away (and usually came back) and those who stayed; marriages; children; the end of farming; attempts at succeeding at school and at work; closeness and bitterness. It's all grippingly told. And the photographs that allow one to compare the state of things in 1936 and 1986 are excellent. Several photos exactly re-capture the originals.
Quibbles: Naturally, I think, the sections on the two families who did not appear in the first book are less interesting. They could have been abbreviated. Also, the author's (negative) take on the state of America in 1986 is garden-variety journalism for that time. These sections are easily avoided, however, and do not detract from the writing about the original families.
Counter to the author's gloomy opinions, his stories indicate that many of these descendents of share-croppers emerged from the Depression to enjoy a slow but steady material progress. Maggie Louise's grandchildren, now in their thirties, should do even better over the course of their lives. One hopes that another writer-photographer team will venture to Hobe's Hill in 2036 to test that proposition.