Glow: A Novel

Glow: A Novel

3.8 13
by Jessica Maria Tuccelli
     
 

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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.

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Tuccelli’s sweeping debut, mothers and daughters are fiercely tethered over six generations and beyond death. The novel, which spans the years 1836–1941, follows the female descendants of pioneer Solomon Bounds, whose family tree is crowded with slave owners and slaves, Native Americans, and the soldiers who drove them from their lands. After the home she shares with her mother, Mia, is vandalized on the eve of a civil rights protest in Washington, D.C., the youngest of Bounds’s kin, great-great-great-great-granddaughter Ella McGee, 11, journeys to her uncle’s home in Hopewell, Ga. On the way, she gets lost and lands in the care of Willie Mae, an elderly mystic and the wife of Bounds’s grandnephew. Meanwhile, Mia frantically searches for her daughter in Hopewell and finds a county whose rural idyll has been ravaged by the treacheries of slaveholders and the KKK. In intersecting narratives, Willa Mae, Mia, and Ella recount brutal traumas that gave them access to a magical spirit world of female ancestors. This elaborately woven plot serves the story well, peppering the novel with moments of lingering beauty and shocking violence. Though Tuccelli dances close to stereotypes of maternal piety, the complexity of her ghosts and her protagonists’ folksy charm help stave off sentimentality. Agent: ICM. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"Fans of The Help, this one's for you: A tale of ghosts, slavery, racism and redemption wrapped up in an epic testament to the power of maternal love." -Ladies' Home Journal

"Full of historical detail and tinged with mysticism . . . Tuccelli's novel brims with the love and fierce loyalty that bind [its] disparate generations together." -Deborah Donovan, Booklist

"In Tuccelli's sweeping debut, mothers and daughters are fiercely tethered over six generations and beyond death . . . [The] elaborately woven plot serves the story well, peppering the novel with moments of lingering beauty and shocking violence." -Publishers Weekly

"With Glow, Jessica Maria Tuccelli has brought our Southern past to visceral and gorgeous life. Prepare to be drenched in the fierce humanity of her characters, bewitched by the powerful music of their voices and seared by the beauty and tragedy of their stories." -Hillary Jordan, author of When She Woke and Mudbound

"Glow is a beautifully wrought debut novel about magic, nature, history and the undying bonds of mother love. Jessica Maria Tuccelli is a remarkable new writer to watch." -Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot

"Glow is one of the strangest and most original first novels I've ever read-linguistically complex, vivid, and inventive. I can't think of another book even remotely like it, with the possible exception of Eudora Welty's The Robber Bridegroom. Jessica Maria Tuccelli takes enormous risks in her book, which pay off in subtle and interesting rewards. We'll be hearing a lot more about this writer." -Mark Childress, author of Georgia Bottoms and Crazy in Alabama

"Ms. Tuccelli has rendered a novel of such precise honesty that it casts its own bright incandescence upon its readers. The language is varied and musical throughout, and the characters as recognizable as one's family. I will care about these people for years to come." -Mark Spragg, author of An Unfinished Life and Bone Fire

"The collage of voices that comprise Jessica Maria Tuccelli's lovely Glow speak to us less of our national differences than of the great interweaving that is a constant in the American experience. Written with perfect pitch and impressive confidence, Glow is a debut novel of great craft, uncommonly sure storytelling and elegant narrative vision." -Dave King, author of The Ha-Ha

"As a nation we are haunted by certain histories, our past forever weighed down. Many manage to live without being much troubled by a nation's sorry mistakes, but here is a novel about individuals profoundly, perilously affected by antebellum America, and how those lives reach forward, abide, as ‘haints,' as miracles." -Michelle Latiolais, author of Widow and A Proper Knowledge

"In this powerful novel, Tuccelli masterfully handles the revolving first person, rendering each character distinct, individual and, always, believable. Race and history are never easy to write about, but she does it beautifully, making us care about these people and their own personal stories. This is a debut novel, but it reads like the work of a seasoned writer. I was enormously impressed. Glow belongs on the A list." -Steve Yarbrough, author of The End of California and Safe from the Neighbors

"Peopled by a chorus of voices as varied as they are remarkably rendered, Glow is unflinching in its portrait of slavery, violence, and prejudice…. A genuine page-turner that is also lyrically fearless, structurally challenging, and beautifully composed." -Scott Cheshire, Tottenville Review

"A wonderful debut novel . . . by turns engrossing and appalling, fascinating and horrifying." -Karen Virag, Edmonton Journal

"An intricate and fascinating story spanning several generations. Every page seems to introduce a new twist to draw the reader in and keep the pages turning." -Kathy Habel, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

"The book flows along with toughness and tenderness, people in love with the land and willing to suffer and sacrifice personal desires to survive. . . . the overlying tapestry is a harsh, beautiful, and realistic portrayal of a significant portion of American history. Remarkable!" -Vivian Crystal, The Historical Novels Review (UK)

"Tuccelli is a lovely writer, and her almost magical ability to capture the voices and stories of the diverse characters in this novel is striking. She does not shy away from pain and suffering, but manages to find transcendence and hope for her characters against tremendous odds. The people in [Glow] are powerfully real, committed to family, to the land, and to the personal histories that make them who they are." -David Wilk, The WritersCast

Library Journal
It's a good thing there's a helpful genealogical chart at the beginning of this first novel, as the narrative ranges over seven generations of two Southern families and offers up a confusing web of marriages and sexual unions among black slaves, white masters, freed slaves, freeborn blacks, Native Americans, and their mixed-race progeny in the fictional Georgia county of Hopewell. For a work of historical fiction, there isn't much detail about the historical South, just enough to designate time periods for the novel's events. Tales of family lore, ghosts, and hoodoo magic are jumbled together with childhood recollections, hate crimes, civil rights activism, and acts of institutionalized racial prejudice, and this makes it hard to follow the stories of the family members from different generations that thread through the book. VERDICT This promising debut's many intriguing stories are scattered too freely, and the voices of the different characters aren't differentiated enough for readers to connect with them individually. However, those who enjoy stories about generations of wise mothers and beloved daughters should appreciate.—Laurie A. Cavanaugh, Wareham Free Lib., MA
Kirkus Reviews
Tuccelli's ambitious first novel offers a fictionalized history of race relations—slavery, the appropriation of Cherokees' land, the rise of the KKK—encapsulated in the family history of the descendents of Solomon Bounds, an early-19th-century pioneer in rural north Georgia. In October 1941, Mia McGee, of Cherokee descent and married to her black childhood sweetheart Obidiah Bounds, is an NAACP activist in Washington, D.C. After receiving a violent threat, she attempts to protect her 11-year-old daughter Ella, sending her by bus to her brother in Hopewell, Ga. When Ella doesn't show up, Mia rushes to Hopewell in an understandable panic, but readers know that Ella is safely ensconced with Willie Mae and Mary-Mary, two elderly black women who came to her rescue after rednecks attacked her. This slender branch of plot carries a lot of weight as Ella's ancestors, of black, white, Cherokee blood, tell their stories. Readers will need the supplied family tree to keep names and dates straight: Mia, one-eighth Indian, recalls her depression era childhood and the Klan lynching of Obidiah's father, as well as visits from the girl ghost Lovelady. Former slave Willie Mae recalls being sold by a white ancestor of Ella's to Samuel Bounds. Willie Mae, who has "the glow" to attract spirits, is Mary-Mary's lover but also happily married to Alger, the son of slave Lossie and Riddle Young, the overseer of Samuel's farm. Riddle and his sister Emmaline, unhappily married to Samuel, are half Cherokee. Childless Emmaline commits suicide and becomes an unsettled spirit. In 1860 Riddle buys Lossie and Alger's freedom and takes the family, including Willie Mae, back to his homestead. Alger dies while a volunteer in the Confederate Army. Lovelady, Willie Mae's daughter, drowns escaping an attack by white racists during Reconstruction. The struggle between cruelty and goodness goes on and on. The surfeit of narratives about noble victims runs together into a heavy-handed treatise on racial injustices; and the awkward insertion of the supernatural only confuses.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143122920
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/26/2013
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
493,361
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Tuccelli is a lovely writer, and her almost magical ability to capture the voices and stories of the diverse characters in this novel is striking. She does not shy away from pain and suffering, but manages to find transcendence and hope for her characters against tremendous odds. The people in [Glow] are powerfully real, committed to family, to the land, and to the personal histories that make them who they are.” —David Wilk, The WritersCast

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