August 4, 2009

Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn Wall

The blurbs used to describe Carolyn Wall’s debut, Sweeping Up Glass, compare Wall to Harper Lee, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor. I mean WOW, how does a novel live up to those kinds of expectations? And yet, even from the beginning, it just does. The striking similarities to To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the most beloved books ever written, are unavoidable. The innocent narrator, and explored themes particularly evoke Mockingbird, and that is a statement I’d never make lightly. Wall’s narrative voice with its colloquial speech is so entrenched in classic southern tradition that it becomes hard to believe that I wasn’t reading a much older novel.

This tale offers more than nostalgia. It is basically the life story of hard working and very poor general store owner, Olivia Harker. Olivia lives life in no uncertain terms. She idolizes her father, adores her grandson, loves her lifetime friends, is wary of her daughter, protective of the wolves that roam her property, and hates her mom. Her story is set in a very small town in Kentucky. And her town has some dark secrets yet to be unveiled. Unknown truths waiting in Olivia’s past threaten her life and everything she knows. It is hard to go into much more detail as the book is masterfully structured--even Olivia doesn’t know the tale she is telling. Just know that the plot offers mysterious surprises.

I have almost no criticisms of this book, but if I really reach, I could say that this book doesn’t feel modern. It tells of a bygone time period and past issues. Which some readers might find to be to the books credit especially after reading it. I will say this book is an old fashioned good read, and its historical feel was most likely calculated move on Wall’s part.

The strengths of the novel abound. Foremost, Olivia’s voice is forcibly engaging, and stayed with me long after the book conclusion. Every character is fully drawn and compelling. The plot is constructed with doses of mystery, literary tension, and layers of characterization. It is easily the best book I’ve read all month, and sure to be one of my favorites this year. Wall’s tale is sure to be cherished by anyone who reads it. It is deserving of all the gushing praise it has and will receive.


  1. Great review. I will be adding this one to my reading list for sure!

  2. This book sounds terrific! Thanks for the review. I'm adding this to my burgeoning TBR list. :-)


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