From the Publisher
“Haunting, lyrical, entirely absorbing, Sweeping Up Glass deserves a place on the shelf next to classics like True Grit and To Kill a Mockingbird.”—O, The Oprah Magazine
“Carolyn D. Wall has created an engaging character in Olivia Harker and a complex and densely interconnected community in Aurora, Kentucky. Her evocative prose recalls the regional style of such authors as Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, and Eudora Welty.”—Mystery Scene
"Wall gives her heroine a powerful voice in this haunting debut."—Kirkus Reviews
“A real stunner, with plot and characters the like of which you’ve never seen.”—MLB News
“Highly recommended for all collections.” —Library Journal, starred review
“This is a perfect little book, like a head-on collision between Flannery O’Connor and Harper Lee, with a bit of Faulkner on a mystery binge. I loved every page of it.”—Joe R. Landsdale, Edgar-award winner
“A powerful novel…features unforgettable characters placed in a terrifying situation….this is a fine novel which deserves a wide audience.”—Mystery News
“The strong, fresh narrative voice pulls the reader in and doesn’t let go in Wall’s stunning debut.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The suspense is gripping, the danger is very real, and the reader gets caught up in Wall’s powerful, moving debut.” —Library Journal, starred review
“This debut novel does so much more than traditional, tightly focused mysteries. It has a powerfully, sometimes uncomfortably, realized setting; characters who seem drawn from life; and a wide-ranging plot, bursting with complications...A gripping story and a truly original voice.” —Booklist
“This extraordinary debut novel…is filled with arresting images, bitter humor, and characters with palpable physical presence. The fresh voice of that clear-eyed narrator reminded me of Scout in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I literally could not put it down.” —Boston Globe
The strong, fresh narrative voice pulls the reader in and doesn't let go in Wall's stunning debut. Someone is killing wolves on Olivia Harker's Kentucky property for sport, and Olivia aims to find the culprit. Meanwhile, Olivia recounts her childhood with an adored father and a mad mother in the brutally segregated Depression-era South. In quick succession, Olivia finds and loses love, gives birth, marries an unloved suitor and becomes a widow. Olivia's daughter, wild and ambitious, hands Olivia her own out-of-wedlock baby to raise, a boy named Will'm. When the probable persecutor of Olivia's wolves sets his sights on her beloved Will'm, Olivia clarifies a decades-old mystery, unwittingly bringing danger to the impoverished local community of blacks who've been her guardian angels. As the action moves inexorably to its explosive conclusion, Olivia must come to grips with past betrayals, thereby earning a second chance at love, redemption and long overdue justice. (Aug.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In 1938 Kentucky, during a cold winter when wolves are killed for pleasure, Olivia Cross and her grandson Will'm live in the kitchen behind Harker's Grocery, the store Olivia has run since she was a child. Olivia's mother is mentally ill and living in a tarpaper shack, her father is dead, and her daughter has run away, leaving her infant son for Olivia to rear. Then one frigid night Will'm's mother returns for him, hoping to shop her son to Hollywood and live off the money she believes he will make. All hell breaks loose as some terrible secrets are revealed. The suspense is gripping, the danger is very real, and the reader gets caught up in Wall's powerful, moving debut. Highly recommended for all collections.
Jo Ann Vicarel
A woman fights to protect her home and family in Depression-era Kentucky. Kinship has never come easy for Olivia Harker Cross. While her mother Ida is in the sanitarium over in Buelton, Olivia and Pap must care for themselves in the back of Harker's Grocery. Olivia loves Pap dearly, going with him to deliver moonshine and helping care for the animals he doctors to make ends meet. Even after Ida returns, Olivia stays by Tate Harker's side. That's where she is the night Tate, coming home from delivering a litter of pups, drives his truck into James Arnold Phelps. When Olivia's finally released from the hospital, she hears the dreadful news from Ida: Pap is dead. Rebelling, she finds solace in the arms of high-school classmate Wing Harris. But when Wing rejects her, she goes wild, and not even longtime friend Junk Hanley and his child bride Love Alice can keep her away from juke joints and sleazy men. Even once she's pregnant with Pauline, her bad luck continues. Her husband Saul Cross dies of a heart attack while building a shack for Ida, and Pauline disappears. Her last chance comes when Pauline brings her son William for Olivia to raise. But as shots ring out on her property, killing her beautiful silver-faced wolves, Olivia isn't sure she can save even William from harm. Wall gives her heroine a powerful voice in this haunting debut.
Read an Excerpt
The long howl of a wolf rolls over me like a toothache. Higher up, shots ring out, the echoes stretching away till they’re not quite heard but more remembered.
There’s nobody on this strip of mountain now but me and Ida, and my grandson, Will’m. While I love the boy more than life, Ida’s a hole in another sock. She lives in the tar paper shack in back of our place, and in spite of this being the coldest winter recorded in Kentucky, she’s standing out there now, wrapped in a blanket, quoting scripture and swearing like a lumberjack. Her white hair’s ratted up like a wild woman’s.
I’m Ida’s child. That makes her my ma’am, and my pap was Tate Harker. I wish he were here instead of buried by the outhouse.
Whoever’s shooting the wolves is trespassing.
“I’ll be out with the boy for a while,” I tell Ida.
I’ve brought her a boiled egg, bread and butter, a wedge of apple wrapped in cloth, and a mug of hot tea. She follows me inside and sits on her cot. Ida’s face is yellowed from years of smoke, her lips gone thin, and her neck is like a turkey’s wattle. Although there’s a clean nightgown folded on a crate by her bed, she hasn’t gotten out of this one for almost three weeks.
Pap once told me that when he first met Ida, she was pretty and full of fire. She rode her donkey all over creation, preaching streets of gold over the short road to hell. She still calls daily on the Lord to deliver her from drunkards and thieves and the likes of me. Last summer, she sent off for Bibles in seven languages, then never opened the boxes. It’s dark in Ida’s shack, and thick with liniment and old age smells. Maybe it’s the sagging cartons, still unpacked, although my Saul moved her here a dozen years ago. Then he died, too.
“I can’t eat apples with these false teeth,” she says.
“Will’m saved it for you.”
“Pleases you, don’t it, me stuck in this pigsty while you and the boy live like royalty.”
Royalty is a cold-water kitchen behind the grocery store. Will’m sleeps in an alcove next to the woodstove. I take the bedroom. Here in the cabin, I’ve tried to better Ida’s life, bring a table, hang a curtain, but she says no, she’ll be crossin’ soon.
“I’ll be out with the boy for a while,” I repeat.
“I’ll ask God to forgive your sins, Olivia.”
Ida’s not the only thing that sets my teeth on edge. I worry about the way folks come for groceries but have no money. Most of the time, they take what they need. Will’m and I write everything down, and they pay as they can—sometimes in yams or yellow onions, a setting hen when the debt gets too high.
If Pap was here, he’d tell me everything was going to be all right.
“Hurry up if you’re going with me,” I tell Will’m.
Damn fool’s errand. I put on my big wool cape and mittens. I have Saul’s rifle.
Will’m brings the toboggan from the barn. He’s wearing a pair of old boots and so many shirts that he looks like a pile of laundry. I can barely make out his dark grey eyes through the round holes in his wool cap. I know what he’s thinking, just like Pap used to—some injured thing might need his care.
I’ll be forty-two next year—too old and thick-legged to plow uphill through snow that makes my hips ache. I should be home in my kitchen, warming beans from last night’s supper. Behind me, Will’m pulls the toboggan by its rope. We haven’t gone far before my fingers are froze, my toes are numb, and I realize I’ve misjudged the light. Where the snow lays smooth and clean, we stop to get our breath. It’s darker up here among the alders and pine. I set the lantern on the toboggan, strike a match, and lay the flame to the wick.
Below, to the left, lights blink on in Aurora, and a car or two winks along in the slush.
“Another shot!” Will’m says. “Gran?”
I hate it when he looks to me like that, like I can fix every damn thing in Pope County. “Will’m, this winter they’ll starve to death anyway.”
But I don’t mean that, and he knows it. Shortly the hunters will go home to their dining rooms where they’ll drink rye whiskey and eat hot suppers. Past the alder line, the last of the silver-faced wolves are curling up, hungry. They’re the only wolves recorded in Kentucky, and tonight a few more are dead.
In a clearing, we come upon the two males. Will’m stares at the round dark holes in their flanks. Their right ears are gone. A small gray female has crawled off under the brush, and she lies there, baring her teeth. She’s been shot, too, and her ear cut away. The blood has run from the wound, filling her eye and matting her fur. There’s no sign of the ears.
These aren’t just any wolves. The silver-faces have lived peaceably on Big Foley for sixty-five years. Then a week ago, a male was shot and his ear cut off. Will’m and I found the wolf, and finished him off. Today, the hunter was back, and he brought others.
“Damn,” I say. “This one’s had pups, winter pups.”
“Don’t shoot her,” he says.
“There’s lead in her haunch, and she’s near bled to death.”
“We’ll take her home.”
What I’m really thinking is—I know who did this.
“Back off from her, boy.” I lay the gun to my shoulder. “Halfway down, we’d have a dead wolf on our hands.”
Will’m says, “But she’s not dead yet.”
Confound this child. I ache with the cold. More snow is likely, and when it comes, it’ll cover our tracks and the sheer rock faces. It would be right to put a clean shot between her eyes. But also between her eyes is that fine silver stripe.
I wonder if Will’m’s likening himself to the cubs. Time’s coming when I’ll have to tell him about Pauline, although he’s never asked. He hasn’t yet learned that all God’s creatures got to fend for themselves, and the devil takes the hindmost.
“Well, give me your scarf, boy. We’ll muzzle her good and tie her on the toboggan.”
“I could sit with her,” he says, grinning.
“You could not. You’ll walk behind and keep your eyes open. Now do as I say, or we’ll leave her here.”
“And there’s not God’s chance she’s sleepin’ in the four-poster, or under it, either. And if there’s no change by morning, I’m putting her down.”
It’s tricky without a rope. I pull, Will’m steadies. More than once the wolf slides off, and we stop to rearrange, and trade places. God love me, every day I understand myself less. I’m so tired that the wolf and the boy and Ida run together in my mind till I can’t think who’s who, or which needs me most.