Review: Glow

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: GlowGlow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli
Published by Viking Adult on March 15, 2012
Genres: Historical, Magical Realism, Paranormal
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

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 an activist mother of Scotch-Irish and Cherokee 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 red-clay dust of the Great Depression 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.

Lushly conceived, cinematically detailed, and epic in historical scope, Glow announces an extraordinary new voice in Southern fiction.

Ordinarily, I write my own summaries of books, but try as I might, I could not manage to sum Glow up in a paragraph. This novel, though not especially long, is dense and complex. There hardly is a plot, but a whole lot happens. Nothing is stated explicitly; it’s left to the reader to suss out the meaning.

Glow did not especially grab me, but, despite that, I can still appreciate the artistry of the book. Jessica Maria Tuccelli displays evident talent both in the unique construction of a narrative and in the writing of disparate characters.

Tuccelli tells the story using multiple points of view, a very effective narrative style, but a very dangerous one as well. Only authors talented enough to write easily distinguishable characters by voice alone can pull it off. Tuccelli does so with ease. Each of the assortment of characters that narrate their perspective have very particular methods of speaking that clearly distinguish them. Most all of them speak in their own particular dialect, all quite distinct even though they all live in the same small town. One character’s brief section seems more like poetry than prose, and, though unclear, conveys perfectly the confusion and tragedy of a little girl’s death.

In Glow, Tuccelli tackles a number of serious issues, most importantly that of racism. The characters in the story come from an array of backgrounds, but are mostly black and Indian (as in Native American). The story spans all the way from before the Civil War era to 1941, from the era of slavery to the fight for civil rights.

When I first started reading Glow, I tried to read it like I do most books, quickly, devouring. This was, I realized later, a mistake. By reading so fast, I became confused about some of the action and the relationships between moments. When I began reading more slowly, giving myself more time to mull over what was going on and to really savor Tuccelli’s talent, my joy of the book most certainly increased.

If you like beautifully-written historical fiction that will really make you think, try Glow.

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