Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review: Glow & Giveaway

Summary: 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 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 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.

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

I've had GLOW by Jessica Maria Tuccelli sitting on my bookshelves for quite some time, but it wasn't until I realized the paperback version is out that I finally decided to read it. The description of the book definitely intrigued me, and truth be told, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The story sounded grand (if that makes sense), and I was wondering how one 320 page book could encompass so much.

At its simplest, GLOW tells the story of five generations beginning in the 1830s and ending at the start of World War II. However, that only begins to scratch the surface of this complex novel. When Mia, a Scotch-Irish and Cherokee activist, finds herself at risk because of her outspoken tendencies, she decides to send her eleven year old daughter Ella back to her hometown in Hopewell County, Georgia, to live with her brother. However, Ella's journey home doesn't go exactly as planned, and she ends up lost in the mountains with two elderly women.

While Ella is healing, her ancestor's family stories.. and secrets are unlocked. This rich novel explores the paths of Ella's relatives through five distinct voices and examines racism, slavery, discrimination, and identity. It is an extremely complex novel that delves into the ties between family, and especially the ones between mother and child. It truly is unlike any story I've ever read.

GLOW is definitely an epic novel. Not only does it cover a large time period (over 100 years), but it explores some universal themes. It is beautifully written novel with vivid descriptions of nature, and the characters are incredibly real and complex. In addition, there are elements of ghosts and magic realism thrown in too. There is just so much in this novel; and if I'm being entirely honest, I'm not sure I "got" all of it. That doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy this novel. I think it just means that I wasn't quite smart enough for it.

There were quite a few things that really stood out to me about GLOW. First and foremost was how well the author captured the five different voices of the characters. Truly, it was remarkable. Ms. Tuccelli portrayed both male and female characters as well as different ethnic groups and dialects. And I can't rave enough about how fully developed each of these characters are. Their strength and resilience was astounding.

Another amazing aspect of this story was the setting.. and it was a huge part of this novel. The author's descriptions of Hopewell County were so well done that I could absolutely imagine what the land looked like. It was apparent that the author did a tremendous amount of research on the land (and the events of the time), and the novel was just rich with the details.

And finally, I appreciated the universal themes that the novel addressed. Family relationships were at the core of this story, but it also explored the bond between a mother and a child, love, racism, discrimination, hope, courage, sacrifice, and redemption. As a result, it would make a wonderful book club discussion.

GLOW is such a beautifully written and powerful story. Recommended for fans of historical fiction and literary novels.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Giveaway alert: Courtesy of the publisher, I have the brand-spanking new paperback edition of GLOW to share with one lucky reader. To enter, fill out the form below before Tuesday, April 23rd at 11:59 p.m. ET. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!


bermudaonion said...

I'm sure you were plenty smart enough for this novel! It sounds like it packs in a lot in a few pages.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Oops, I misspelled where I live in the contest, but I never win anyway! LOL

Sounds like a good read to me!

Beth F said...

This sounds like my kind of book!

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

Sounds like an ambitious story that the author succeeded in telling. Is this a middle-grade novel, though?

Julie P. said...


It's definitely not a MG novel!

Dolly said...

I missed your review earlier!

I've heard SO many good things about this book, I'm glad I got your take on it also.