ISBN #: 978-0143122920
Page Count: 324
Copyright: February 26, 2013
Publisher: Penguin Books
(Taken from back cover)
October 1941. Eleven-year-old Ella McGee sits on a bus bound for her Southern hometown. Behind her in Washington, D.C., lie the broken pieces of her parents' love story - a black father drafted, an activist mother of Cherokee and Scotch-Irish descent confronting racist thugs. But Ella's journey is just beginning when she reaches Hopewell County, and her disappearance into the Georgia mountains will unfurl a rich tapestry of family secrets spanning a century. Told in five unforgettable voices, Glow reaches back through the generations, from the eve of World War II to the Blue Ridge frontier of 1836, where slave plantations adjoin the haunted glades of a razed Cherokee Nation. Out of these characters' lives evolves a drama that is at once intimately human and majestic in its power to call upon the great themes of our time - race, identity, and the bonds of family and community.
On the front of the cover there's a blurb that states, "Fans of The Help, this one's for you." (Ladies' Home Journal) I loved The Help, and I enjoy novels written during that time period, so I thought I'd give this one a try. Although the premise intrigued me, I quickly became confused by this book. Perhaps I'm just simple-minded, but let me begin with the characters and then I'll get into why I became confused.
Ella's put onto a train in Washington, D.C. by her mother (whom Ella thinks is her sister) to escape the dangers there. When she arrives in Georgia, the person she was to meet at the station is not there to pick her up. After waiting for awhile, Ella decides to head to the closest village she sees. On her way she's accosted by several males and left for dead.
Amelia is often impulsive. She lives with her mother, father, and brother. They are part Cherokee and part Scotch-Irish. While they don't endure the many injustices of the African-Americans, they do have to be careful on who finds out about their heritage because being a half-breed is almost as bad as being African-American. Amelia is in love with an African-American boy, though, and she often gets into fights over her inability to see a person's color.
Willie Mae was born and raised on a slave plantation. After seeing her mother die, she's sold and taken off to a new plantation where she's treated much better. She becomes a maid to the lady of the manor, who is slightly deranged and speaks to little people that only she can see in puddles of water. Willie Mae falls in love with another slave-girl named Mary-Mary, but winds up marrying a slave-boy named Alger. Alger's aware of the bond between Willie Mae and Mary-Mary, but woos Willie Mae despite that ... and wins her love in the process.
All three of these ladies are tied together. From the first to the third, the reader is taken back into time by a generation each. If the book would have been written in this format, I think my confusion would have been decreased or cease to exist altogether, but it wasn't. The book starts off with present-day Amelia, then jumps to present-day Ella, then jumps back to Amelia, but to when she was a little girl (which started my confusion a little bit). After jumping back-and-forth for a while between Ella and young-Amelia, the reader's taken to young-Willie Mae's story. There were a few more voices introduced after this and some more back-and-forth between characters. By the time the book returned to Amelia and Ella, I had to flip back to the beginning to remind myself of who they were.
I did enjoy the three or four generations that were explored in this novel. Their stories were captivating and I lost myself in each one of them easily. I just wish there was less flip-flopping between stories and told from one generation to the next in a straight line. That may seem a bit simplistic to some of you, but I enjoy my stories to start at the beginning (in this instance with Riddle Young's story) and then proceed along to the present. I probably would've kept up with the characters easier.
Also, there were times when I forgot what race the characters were. The Bounds' are white slave owners, but in future generations they're African-American. I often forgot Amelia was Cherokee and Scotch-Irish because the way she and her family talked reminded me of older African-Americans. Some of the dialect used in this novel made me stop and think about what I was reading. For example, "marse" was used instead of "master" or "masta" (i.e. Marse Tom). The dialect did lend an authenticity to the time period so I cannot complain about it, but it did make me pause several times until I understood what they were trying to say.
Overall, while I did have a few complaints, I rather enjoyed this book. I don't know that I enjoyed it more than The Help, but it is a novel I would cautiously recommend to readers who are a fan of generational period literature.
*A paperback copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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