Monday, April 23, 2012

Review: Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli

Rating: 3 Stars
Pages: 336
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Publication Date: March 2012
Source: Received from NetGalley for Review

Synopsis (Barnes and Noble):
In the autumn of 1941, Amelia J. McGee, a young woman of Cherokee and Scotch-Irish descent, and an outspoken pamphleteer for the NAACP, hastily sends her daughter, Ella, alone on a bus home to Georgia in the middle of the night—a desperate measure that proves calamitous when the child encounters two drifters and is left for dead on the side of the road.

Ella awakens in the homestead of Willie Mae Cotton, a wise root doctor and former slave, and her partner, Mary-Mary Freeborn, tucked deep in the Takatoka Forest. As Ella heals, the secrets of her lineage are revealed.

Shot through with Cherokee lore and hoodoo conjuring, Glow transports us from Washington, D.C., on the brink of World War II to the Blue Ridge frontier of 1836, from the parlors of antebellum manses to the plantation kitchens where girls are raised by women who stand in as mothers. As the land with all its promise and turmoil passes from one generation to the next, Ella's ancestral home turns from safe haven to mayhem and back again.

Jessica Maria Tuccelli reveals deep insight into individual acts that can transform a community, and the ties that bind people together across immeasurable hardships and distances. Illuminating the tragedy of human frailty, the vitality of friendship and hope, and the fiercest of all bonds—mother love—the voices of Glow transcend their history with grace and splendor

     I don't really know how to review this one. I didn't get what I was expecting.  What I was expecting was the tale of a mother and daughter and the events surrounding their flight from Washington DC back to their hometown in Georgia.  That's just part of the story, a very small part of the story.  What Glow is really about is a small town Georgia and the history of that town.  How that towns history connects all the main characters together.
     I wanted to hear about Amelia and what possessed her to move to Washington DC in the first place.  What forced her to send her daughter Ella back home to Georgia alone on a bus.  I did get that story, somewhat, but not enough.  It felt like Amelia and Ella's life in Washington DC was just a tool for the author to tell the history of this Georgia town.  This wasn't really a story about Amelia and Ella, and their relationship.  This was the story of the town.  Which was a disappointment for me because that is not what I had expected..
     One of the main flaws in the whole novel for me was the lack of connection that I felt towards Amelia and Ella.  This was caused by the fact that halfway through the novel Tuccelli stopped focusing on the mother and daughter and switched her focus to Willie Mae Cotton and Riddle Young.  Up until that point, I was looking forward to learning more about Amelia and Ella, what caused the disconnect in their relationship.  What caused Amelia to leave everything she knew in Georgia and head to Washington DC.  Before I could find this out, the story jumped back in time to Willie Mae and Riddle Young.
     Willie Mae and Riddle's stories were excellent.  As a reader I could see that the author was really in her element while writing about these two characters.  They (their stories and characters) were just so well developed and thought out, that the pages just seemed to fly by and I wanted to read more and more.  But the strength of these two highlighted the weakness of Amelia and Ella.  I wish the author would have taken some of that same talent and used it to plump up Amelia and Ella's story.
     When I finished Glow, I wondered if Tuccelli had run out of space.  Because for me if this novel had been longer and Tuccelli had been about to flush out the characters and plots more, this would have been more than just a 3 star read.  I probably would have given it 4 or more.

Overall Recommendation:

     I would recommend Glow with a slight hesitation.  Before recommending it I would make the person aware that they aren't really getting a mother and daughter story but a story of a place and its history.  I would read another one of the author's books because her writing ability shows promise.

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