If the measure of a good story is the desire to turn each next page, then Sweeping Up Glass is a good story. Told in the first person by Olivia Harker, an authentic and relatable voice, and set in Southern Kentucky, in a time when segregation was a fact and civil rights had yet to be spoken of, Sweeping Up Glass is a genre straddling southern, historical, mystery that considers the wounds of hatred, the intricacies of family, and the complexity of pride, loss and redemption.
Olivia’s story begins in the present as someone has injured a wolf on her rural property. As she and her grandson Will’m contemplate the wolf’s care, the story quickly turns to past tense as Olivia recounts her life growing up with her kindhearted pap and her institutionalized mother. Olivia’s strong will propels the story through first love, unwed motherhood and depression era farm life.
The best part of Sweeping Up Glass is undeniably the voice of Olivia Harker, youthful and strong, proud and misguided. The excellently drawn setting of depression era Aurora, Kentucky adds depth to Olivia’s tale, with a mixture of sweeping rural grandeur and a provincial way of life.
Though associated to several great southern writers in early reviews, two small bumps keep Sweeping Up Glass from landing securely in the Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor arena. The present-past-present switching proves a bit ungainly, and though only briefly slowing the momentum of the telling, it keeps the story from having a fully realized tautness. Further, the ending builds to a mountainous crescendo and then flies by too quickly with a few characters in need of a fuller resolution, a few bows too neatly tied.
So small are these bumps as Sweeping Up Glass does most of what makes a southern mystery so endearing: keeps the pages moving at breakneck speed that mystery lovers need, includes a whiz-bang with a twist ending and paints a time when a small community was the whole of the world.
Recommended for lovers of the southern tale or those seeking a rural-defined mystery.
Sweeping Up Glass will be released on August 4, 2009.
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Author's website HERE.
To read an excerpt or download a reader's guide visit the Random House
Sweeping Up Glass site HERE
Thank you to Library Thing for my advanced copy.