21 December 2009

Review: Sweeping up Glass by Carolyn Wall

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.

Sweeping up Glass at Powell's
Sweeping up Glass at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Random House, 2009
ISBN 13: 9780385343039
Challenges: 100+, 999
Source: Borrowed (see review policy)
Rating: A


Julie P. 12/21/09, 9:37 AM  

So many books I want/need to read. I've heard nothing but great things about this one.

SuziQoregon 12/21/09, 9:50 AM  

I read this one a few months ago and thought it was very good. I still think about the characters sometimes. Good to hear the audio version was good. Sounds like an excellent choice for reader. I'll have to make a note of the name and see what else she's read.

Sandy Nawrot 12/21/09, 11:32 AM  

Bummer, just checked the library and they don't have the audio. Sounds like an intense but meaningful read. Something tells me that while the plot is not an upbeat one, it still didn't drag you into the muck!

Jen - devourer of books 12/21/09, 11:32 AM  

I've had this out from the library a couple of times and had to return it unread. Maybe I'll check and see if they have the audio.

bermudaonion 12/21/09, 1:28 PM  

I've had this on my wish list ever since I saw you talking about it on Twitter. Now I'm wondering if I should just go for the audio version.

Jenners 12/21/09, 8:49 PM  

Great review ... I'm intrigued!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 12/21/09, 9:48 PM  

Beth, Terrific review -- everyone has seemed to enjoy this book. I MUST add it to my TBR list; thanks so much. Happy Holidays :0

Violet 12/22/09, 1:01 AM  

I just love the title of this book, I have to add it to my wishlist. ...Great review

Margot 12/22/09, 8:17 AM  

From the title I figured the book for a gritty one. Interesting that they don't glorify small town America.

S. Krishna 12/22/09, 10:30 AM  

This might be a book I'll try on audio!

Literary Feline 12/25/09, 7:57 PM  

I really liked this one too, Beth. Thank you for your great review.

Toni 12/26/09, 1:26 PM  

This sounds really good. Thanks for the the review. It sounds like a worthy way to spend an Audio Credit.

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