Life in Pope County, Kentucky, isn't for the faint hearted, a fact that Olivia Harker Cross knows well. The Depression has hit the town hard, but she is trying the best way she can to keep her mentally ill mother and young grandson fed and clothed.
Everywhere Olivia turns, plans are shattered and love goes away. The one constant in her life has been the Alaska silver wolves her grandfather released on the family's land in the last century. It isn't until the winter Olivia discovers someone is killing her wolves that she learns just how deep-rooted her troubles really are.
Part character study and part mystery, Sweeping up Glass by Carolyn Wall explores the contradictions of small-town life, the insidiousness of the Jim Crow South, and the consequences of love lost or never gained. Olivia Harker Cross has been shaped by the intertwined effects of all three.
The novel is best experienced with little foreknowledge, and it is almost impossible to discuss the principal themes without revealing at least part of the conclusion. Olivia's story is not charming and is not easy to read. Her story is one of survival, of hunkering down and doing what needs to be done, and of finding bits of joy when and where she can. Her small town does not leave you with feelings of nostalgia for times gone by. Instead you will find yourself questioning just how well you know the members of your own community and how far you would go to protect what you love.
I listened to the audiobook edition of the novel read by Lorna Raver. She was a new to me narrator, and I can't imagine anyone doing a better job. Without being overly dramatic, Raver made the perfect emotional connection to Olivia.
Carolyn Wall has a website and Book Browse has a reading guide. This would make an excellent book club selection.
Published by Random House, 2009
ISBN 13: 9780385343039
Challenges: 100+, 999
Source: Borrowed (see review policy)