Sweeping Up Glass
Review: Olivia Harker tells the story of her life and in particular the mysterious circumstances of one bitterly cold winter in Sweeping Up Glass, the powerful debut novel by Carolyn D. Wall.
Olivia Harker is a child unwanted and unloved by her mentally ill mother. Her father, however, adores her. He manages, while his wife Ida is in a sanitarium, to take care of Olivia, handle his grocery store, and learn through books to be a veterinarian. When Ida returns home, Olivia is already in school. Ida begins immediately to express her disapproval of Olivia by intimidating her, threatening her and at times beating her with a switch. The only friends Olivia has are the people of color from down the road. The young ones like her and the older ones teach her things she doesn't learn in school, i.e. sewing and quilting. Not being taught the nature of life by her folks, she has a daughter, Pauline, out of wedlock, not even knowing who the father is. She ultimately marries and has a fairly happy life for twelve years before her husband dies. Her daughter follows in her mother's footsteps and has a son, William, out of wedlock. When William is still a baby, Pauline leaves home to become a star in Hollywood. Through the years, however, Ida continues her nerve-wracking ways. But little Will'm is a source of joy to Olivia and she will do everything in her power to protect him and keep him out of harm's way.
In 1938, Olivia recounts when folks had very little money so traded whatever provisions they had for groceries at the Harker grocery store. It was a time of blatant segregation and it was a time of bootleg whiskey. There were hunters who normally only hunted for food, but for reasons unknown to Olivia they began hunting for sport on her land where the only silver-faced wolves existed in Kentucky. Her grandfather had brought home a male and female years before from Alaska. Why did the hunters start shooting the wolves, then slicing the right ear off and leaving the remains for the vultures? Were these the same men that had secret meetings every Saturday night? And why were some of the colored boys getting sick and dying, or suddenly leaving home? When Olivia confronts the men about hunting on her land, she is warned that they will be coming after her and her grandson next. They give her no reason why. Now a widow, how can she protect herself and keep her teenage grandson safe from harm?
Sweeping Up Glass is a formidable tale of seemingly insurmountable difficulties and terrorizing issues for a family during a difficult period for many in America. Yet Olivia Harker finds love and honor among the shattered glass of her life. This is a remarkable story, rich in character and emotion, which should be read and reread; it is highly recommended.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Sweeping Up Glass.
Acknowledgment: Poisoned Pen Press provided an ARC of Sweeping Up Glass for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Sweeping Up Glass: Kentucky
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Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn D. Wall
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: August 2008
List Price: $24.95