Glow follows the story of the family tree of Solomon Bounds, a white man who settles in the mountains of Georgia is the early 1800's. What makes this novel special is that as you read, you go back up the family tree, not down. The story starts with young Ella McGee and her mother, Amanda. They live in Washington, DC in 1941. Amanda--a mix of Cherokee and Scotch-Irish descent, is working on racial equality and making herself very unpopular in the community around her. A rock thrown into her home one night makes her realize leaving is the only option. But--she can only get one bus ticket out that night. Reluctantly, she puts Ella on the bus to Georgia, with instructions on where to get off and who to meet.
But things go wrong, and Ella is left injured on the side of the road in Georgia. Two elderly women, Willie Mae and Mary-Mary, find Ella and take her to their cabin in the woods to heal her and her dog. In doing so, Ella's family tree and Willie Mae's family tree connect. We begin the stories of Amanda's life as a child in the same region--her loving parents, her elder brother Bud, and her love for Obidiah Bounds, a young black boy who's father is the only black person around to own a large farm. Amanda's childhood stories are interspersed with Ella's time at the cabin with Willie Mae and Mary-Mary. It is important to look at the chapter titles--each chapter is the name of the character you will be reading about. If you don't it can get you off track and a bit confused. I found it helped me reset my mind to go back to a particular character's history. There is also a family tree at the beginning of the book to help you keep track of each character and where they are in the history of this family.
This novel is chock full of superstition, racial tension, and the beauty of the Georgia mountains. Jessica Maria Tuccelli is an amazingly descriptive writer. Her ability to write about the color of a river, the smell of flowers, and the blazing colors of the leaves are a gift to savor. And the heartbreak and happy times for each storyteller are simply told yet pack a power punch of emotion.
You too, will fall in love with Ella and, most of all, young Amanda. She really is the voice of this novel and seeing things through her young eyes makes them even more poignant. The love of mothers for their children, the mix of Cherokee, white, and black histories, and the drive for the human spirit to never give up are all themes that run throughout each and every story--from Ella all the way back to Willie Mae's early life as a slave.
Did I tempt you? How about a chance to win a copy of Glow? You can!
Just add a comment to this post and I will pick a winner on Monday, April 29th. *open only to US residents*
Rating: 8/10 Compelling story about the history of Hopewell County and one of the founding families. Beautifully written novel for a first time author. Perfect for book clubs! Fans of The Kitchen House will like this one.
Available in paperback, e-book, and audio.