It takes skill to write a novel that weaves together ghosts, the Civil Rights Movement, slavery, and a lost child. In her debut novel Glow, Jessica Maria Tuccelli whisks her readers from urban Washington, DC in the 1940s to the rural Georgia mountains. Eleven-year-old Ella McGee goes missing on a bus ride from DC to her mother’s Georgia hometown. Ella’s disappearance becomes the catalyst that stirs up memories of life in the mountains. Not only is there so much history and hurt in those mountains, but they are full of ghosts and haints who are searching for a home of their own.
When the pitch for Glow arrived in my inbox, it was described as “fans of The Help, this one’s for you.” I know there was a lot of controversy surrounding The Help (both book and film), but I thought its portrayal of racism in the south honest and realistic. More so in the book than the film. That one sentence made me curious enough to read Glow.
Besides their common themes of racism, I don’t really think the two books have much in common. I guess that’s how marketing works?
Glow follows are large cast of characters, each with their rich story of love, loss, and pain. Each character’s race determines the path and roles they are allowed to take in life. Ella’s mother Mia is part Cherokee and never quite fits in herr small town, but folks turned the other way because her father was large white man. Travel a little further back in time and meet Willie Mae was born into slavery and torn away from her mother at a young age. Her hair glows and she can see spirits. Her new mistress, Miss Emmaline is part Cherokee but no one speaks of it since she is married to a white slave owner. Then there’s Marse Riddle who is the overseer at Miss Emmaline’s home. He is also her brother. He’s fallen in love with his employer’s slave housekeeper Lossie. Everyone becomes connected in these quiet, yet significant ways. Even ghosts and spirits play a supporting role in some of the characters’ lives.
Each character that Tuccelli introduced enthralled me. Each story was a gift to me. The United States’ history is very complicated when it comes to race and indigenous people. As a mother of biracial children, I felt drawn to these stories. This was how our country, my people, treated black people, Native Americans, and mixed race offspring. Sometimes it doesn’t seem so different from today.
As much as I enjoyed each character’s tale, I thought the novel as a whole was muddled. It was beautifully written; I couldn’t put down the novel. Yet as I closed the last chapter, I was not sure what message the author wanted me to take from the novel. What really happened? What was real and what was haunted? What life would Ella return to in those mountains?
Want to read Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli for yourself? Thanks the publisher, I have a copy to giveaway to a reader. Just leave a comment letting me know why you want to read it. I’ll draw a winner via random.org on May 15th. (US addresses only, please)