Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli is a beautifully crafted novel that I’m surprised I haven’t heard much about. At all. It’s compared to The Help on its paperback cover, but it’s really nothing like The Help, except that it takes place in the South and deals with issues of race and class. That’s where the similarities end. (Not to knock The Help, which I also thoroughly enjoyed – they are just two very different novels.)
Glow follows the lives of a few interconnected families in Hopewell County, GA, over the course of more than a century, from about 1834 to 1941, which covers slavery to freedom and all the fraught issues before and after the Civil War, including the rise of of the Ku Klux Klan. Not only does the novel deftly explore the race relations between blacks and whites, but also Native Americans, who were basically considered savage non-persons, especially after being kicked off their land in Georgia. The characters’ tales are full of horror and humanity and authenticity and soul with a dash of ghostly haunting and redemption. The language captures the lilting dialect of the time and place (or so I imagine). (I listened to a good deal of the audio version, and it is superb.) I may even have shed a tear or two. That doesn’t often happen these days. That’s not to say it’s sentimental – it’s not.
You should read this novel. Seriously. This is a book I’m going to be running around telling everyone to read. I’m not saying it’s the best book ever written, but the magic and vividness of the stories make them well worth reading. It’s more like a novel of intertwined novellas, and be aware that it does not follow traditional or formulaic plot lines. It’s more of a meandering, lilting set of tales, told with poise and heart.
Okay, you should read this novel if:
- You are human.
- You can read.
- You think you’ve heard all angles of all tales of the south and slavery and racism and class (you haven’t).
- You appreciate good prose and storytelling and strong characters.
- You also appreciate stories that show the depth of our flawed human characters.
- You can’t read (in which case, learn to read, or listen to the audio).
- You hate books. (In which case, what are you doing here?)
- You need formulaic, fast-moving, straight forward plots.
- Your soul is a crispy, burnt thing.