Sweeping Up Glass

Sweeping Up Glass

4.1 22
by Carolyn D Wall

View All Available Formats & Editions

1938: Olivia and the boy, Willam, run Harkeras Grocery and live in the cold-water kitchen behind the store. Money is scarce; business is bad. Out back, Pap is buried near the outhouse, and Oliviaas crazy mother Ida is living in a tarpaper shack.
For 30 years, Olivia has loved Wing Harris, who plays a mean trumpet and owns the Kentuckian Hotel. For decades,

…  See more details below


1938: Olivia and the boy, Willam, run Harkeras Grocery and live in the cold-water kitchen behind the store. Money is scarce; business is bad. Out back, Pap is buried near the outhouse, and Oliviaas crazy mother Ida is living in a tarpaper shack.
For 30 years, Olivia has loved Wing Harris, who plays a mean trumpet and owns the Kentuckian Hotel. For decades, theyave shared only howdies at Ruseas CafA(c).
This may be the coldest winter on record in Kentucky, but that doesnat keep the elusive Hunt Club from tracking silver-faced wolves on Oliviaas strip of mountain. It falls to her and Willam to figure out why as the hunters turn their sights on them, too.
Then, one frozen night, Willamas mother comes back for him. The some terrible secrets explode among the Rowe Street community. Now thereas blood on Oliviaas hands, and nothing is as she thought it was.
Olivia is responsible for the very people who betrayed her. While she searches for answers that might save them all, then the day comes when Olivia must shatter the shackles that bind her and her community.
Like nothing you have ever read, Sweeping Up Glass is Carolyn D. Wallas searing and surprising debut novel.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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.
Library Journal

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
Kirkus Reviews
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 More

Product Details

Poisoned Pen Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.72(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.99(d)

Read an Excerpt

Sweeping Up Glass

By Carolyn D. Wall Poisoned Pen Press
Copyright © 2008
Carolyn D. Wall
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59058-512-2

Chapter One 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 tarpaper 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 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 theshort 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 apple with these false teeth," she says.

"Will'm saved it for you."

"Pleases you, don't it, me stuck in this pig sty 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 tell her.

"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 brown 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 wink 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.

Chapter Two We lay the wolf in the kitchen, on a blanket in the corner. It would be wrong to put a sickly thing in our rat trap of a barn where she could be found by a hungry bobcat-or seen by Ida if she stepped out her door. The wolf breathes ragged, and her eyes are closed. Will'm's scarf still softly binds her snout-the kind of loose muzzling I've seen Pap do. Blood seeps from the place where her ear once was.

I stack kindling in the stove and light it. Fetch a dish of navy beans from the cupboard and dump them in a pan. With a teaspoon I slide some onto her tongue, but she rolls her eyes.

"We've got chores to do," I say, getting up.

Will'm stands in the middle of the kitchen. A yellow bulb hangs over our table. "But if we don't stitch her up, she'll lay there and die."

"Sometimes that's the way of things."

"Like Wing Harris' wife?"

My head snaps around. "Don't you talk to me about Wing's missus."

"Everybody knows she gets more feeble every day."

But I won't hear it. "Get out there and bring in the wood while you've still got your coat on."

Potato peelings lie in the sink, and I scoop them up and put them in my pocket. I kick at the snow that's drifted under the back door and turned to slush on the porch. Take the buckets from their nails and bang ice from their bottoms. Will'm stumps out after me, and down the steps. I wish he hadn't said Wing's name.

When we were young, Wing and I had not a secret between us. But for the last twenty years, we've crossed the street to avoid each other. Now we share only howdies at Ruse's Café.

All in all, I have a crazy ma'am who owns a hundred dusty Bibles, a leggy boy with a too-soft heart, and no man to bed down with. And an Alaskan Silver dying on my kitchen floor.

Out in the dark, Will'm works the axe from a log. "You think we could at least sew up her ear?"

Damnation. Years ago, Ida buried Pap by the boarded-up privy. Since then, I've tread over him ten times a day. I pass over it now on my way to the wellhouse. Pap was a self-taught veterinarian, and a truly loved man, but there's not so much as a stick to mark his grave. Someday I'm going to move him to the hillside near Saul, and set a real marker.

For near thirteen years, I was married to Saul. When he died, I paid Junk Hanley a dollar to come up and lay a flat paving stone that said Saul Cross was a beloved husband and father. Not that I loved him all that much.

My boots break through the dark snow crust, and chunks of ice cling to my skirt. I push the door open, set the lantern on the ground, dip feed in one bucket, fill the other with potatoes. I cut down a string of onions. In the morning, I'll take stock of the bins and shelves in our store, line up the last cans of lima beans and baking powder. If folks don't start paying their bills, I may not be able to order again.

I let myself into the goat pen, throw the peelings to them, use a hoe handle to crack ice on the water trough. It's so dark out here, I can just make out the squatness of Ida's cabin and the donkey tethered in her sideyard. In spite of Ida carrying on about her supper, I'm sure she's eaten it and fallen asleep with her pipe lit. One of these days she's going to burn us to the ground, and when she does, I hope she takes the donkey with her. Across the yard Will'm splits kindling.

I chip through the ice on the shallow pans, too, but the half dozen hens would rather die of thirst than budge from their nests.

Will'm follows me inside, shrugs off his coat and sits letting snow melt from his boots. I set the potato bucket under the sink.

Hell. Maybe I've brought the wolf home as a favor to Will'm-or because of Pap, whose old clinic still lies under this kitchen. I haven't been down there in years, nor do I want to go now. But I bring the lamp from where it hangs on the porch. Will'm's eyes grow round when I take the keys from the hook and open the cellar door.

My boots make hollow sounds on the stairs, but the floor at the bottom is hard-packed earth. There's no electricity, and as Saul would have said, it's moldy as molly hell down here. No wonder Saul stayed out of the place, mildewed and spun with cobwebs and dust. Saul said Pap needed his head examined, damned near living down here with his beasties, and the rest of the time running the still in the toolshed.

It's the first time in years this room has seen light. It smells bad, like things died and rotted here, although Pap hardly ever lost a patient. The rot is in the tunnel he built from the cellar to the shed. It kept him from trudging through four feet of snow just to get to his still. Now both ends are boarded.

I look around at the bunks of old straw, the table running the length of the room, rusty wire cages and carriers with bent handles, buckets, a pitchfork and shovels, crates, a pair of broken lanterns. Seeing the long caged runs and water bowls, I have a minute or two of bone-deep sickness. It's not Pap's memory that I fear under this house.

"A body could die of the damp down here." I select from a shelf a dusty, brown bottle and other things-long-nosed scissors and a pack of curved needles-then we go up the steps into the light. I lock the door and slip the keys back on the hook. From my sewing basket I fetch white thread, tear squares of clean cotton for bandages, and long strips for binding. The chloroform has lost its strength, but it's all we have. I pour three drops on a rag. We wash our hands with hot water and soap, then sit on the floor. When the gray's as far under as I can get her, I cut the matted hair from her haunch. She jerks and twitches, and her eyes roll white while I shave a patch of fur and dig in the wound. My face feels painfully tight, and my eyes water something terrible.

"Who d'you think did this?" Will'm says.

I withdraw my fingers. In my palm is the metal shot. I pour peroxide in the wound and watch it boil. Spin off a length of thread, snap it with my teeth, and hold the needle to the light. Curse under my breath that my eyes aren't what they used to be. I show Will'm how to draw the edges of the wound, and while he pinches her skin between his fingers, I take a half dozen stitches. We do the same with the ear, cleaning blood from her eye the best we can. She flinches and whines. Under the men's britches I'm wearing-plus the cotton dress, cardigan and long-handles-I'm damp with sweat.

Will'm offers to say a prayer over her.

"You do that," I tell him. "And while you're at it, pray for the hunters. I'm going to make them sorry they were born."

Chapter Three I have nothing to give the wolf for her pain. It wouldn't do to crush up a Lydia Pinkham's, or a Carters' liver pill, and I dare not chloroform her again. I'll ask Dooby, the pharmacist, what will help her to heal-if by morning she has not torn the kitchen to pieces and eaten us in our beds. She breathes thready and light, and her eyes, when she opens them, are yellow and rolling with fear.

God help me if she dies in the night, and it be upon my head. A good Samaritan, after all, is not always a beneficent thing. Folks die every day in the name of love.

Between the kitchen and the grocery I have hung a curtain. The only bedroom is in the front of the house, separated from the grocery by a door. I fear for Will'm, sleeping in his kitchen alcove with nothing but eight feet of space and another hung bedsheet between him and the gray, so we take our supper and sit in the middle of my four-poster. I love this high-ceilinged room with its feather mattress bed, an old wardrobe and a cricket rocker. What used to be a closet now contains a toilet, a cracked mirror, and an electric light. No matter that we have to come through the grocery and the bedroom to get to it.

I tell Will'm about how my pap could soothe a jackrabbit with a leg so busted the bone stuck through. In our nightshirts, Will'm and I tear bits of bread to dunk in our bean soup, and we talk about Ida, and the gray, and what we will do in the morning.

"Gran?" Will'm says. "Her pups'll die without her, won't they?"

"If they haven't already."

"Think we could go up in the morning and look for 'em?"

"You've got school, and even if we found any of them alive, she's too bad off to nurse them."

"-We could make up some way to feed them."

"No, we could not."

Daylight will tell us whether the mama wolf lives or dies. And Lord help us if Ida rises from her bed and wanders over in the morning looking for her tea and oats.

I tuck the boy in beside me. We lay in the dark looking at each other. Toward morning, I drift off till something brings me hard awake. I shove my feet in boots and wrap myself in a flannel robe. I move through the grocery and peek around the kitchen curtain. Bits of gnawed rope lay on the floor, and bloody strips of sheet. Blood streaks the linoleum and the window sill. Glass has exploded out onto the snow. The gray is gone.

"Sweet Jesus."

I open the back door and go through the porch and down the steps, mindful of the ice. The sky is leaden and holding its breath. Bloody tracks lead to the shed and around, past the iced-over pickup and out to the barn. And there's the gray-one leg stretched out and lying on her side. From under her belly a circle of blood spreads dark on the snow. Twenty feet away, Ida stands in her nightgown. Pap's old Winchester is at her shoulder, and her head's still thrown back from the force of the shot.

Chapter Four I want to kill Ida. It's not the first time.

When I was thirteen, Dooby told me something about her I wish I'd never known.

When I was first conceived, it was Dooby's pap down at the pharmacy that sold Ma'am the powders with which she tried to empty her womb. The first child she spat out like an unripe persimmon, but the second was me, and I would not go. I clung to her dark, inner lining until she grew round in the belly and was sick most of the time from the bitter German beer the doctor ordered to make her gain weight. Later folks told me-I was delivered sputtering, squalling, and already starved.


Excerpted from Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn D. Wall
Copyright © 2008 by Carolyn D. Wall. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Sweeping Up Glass 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sweeping up Glass is an easy read. The book is well written and the characters are interesting. It's a bit slow going at first. However, once things pick up, you're captured and cannot put the book down because you're dying to know what will happen next. The plot has a nice twist that is unexpected. I can't wait to read Wall's next book. I'm sure it will be a page turner, too. This is a definite read!
3B More than 1 year ago
Sweeping Up Glass is an engaging piece of literature, rich with imagery. The characters and setting are both unique and fully dimensional. Wall is successful in pulling the reader into this colorful tale. When the reader is caught up in the developing saga, a new twist arrives, which creates another realm for discussion.
TheBookFairy More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book for my mother, and decided to read it myself. It's not usually the type of book I read, but it turned out to be an outstanding story. It's full of very "real" characters and emotion. The characters aren't perfect or always nice, but you'll sympathize with them as they each grow from their experiences. This would be a great book for a book club.
teacherladyCH More than 1 year ago
I was enthralled throughout this story. Perfect characterization, amazing twist in a compelling plot. I would recommend to anyone who has time to read the entire thing, because you can't put it down. Should be in the Oprah book club! Can't wait for Carolyn Wall's next novel. Glad I came upon this novel.
Gramples More than 1 year ago
This book held my attention throughout. Lorna Raver does an excellent job in narrating. Hope they make a movie of this book. Five Stars!
kuhlcat More than 1 year ago
I definitely recommend this book. Totally and completely. The author captures your interest from the very first page. The only reason I even put this one down was because I had to earn my paycheck!!! I haven't read a book this good in a long time, and it feels great. I was starting to worry... The voice of the narrator is fresh and consistent, and the images she spins for the reader are vivid. The author keeps within the character for the entire book, not digressing at all into what we all are used to-- the "author's voice". I completely believed in Olivia Harker and was on her side all the way. It does get a bit confusing in some places, but that helped to build the character of Olivia and make her more real. The story works so well. Nothing in this novel was unnecessary. Every element eventually leads to the ending, and finally every piece of the puzzle falls into place. It all makes sense! I love books like this, that keep you guessing until the author finally has to tell you (or you've figured it out) and brings everything together. And the story itself-- early 1930's southeast America, the segregation and disrespect of the "coloreds"-- was intriguing and exciting. Pick up this book during your next trip to the bookstore. You won't be disappointed.
Margi_K More than 1 year ago
I can't say enough good things about this novel. You come to know each and every character no matter how small their part in the book. The setting is brilliantly illustrated. I could feel myself in the tar paper shack, the grocery, the church. This book will be a great read for book clubs and those readers who don't like mainstream fiction. I will recommend this title time and time again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow! This book is filled with characters that I will never forget.
Anonymous 10 days ago
I enjoyed reading this story although it isn't what I would call a happy or light read.
Anonymous 27 days ago
I couldn't put this book down. Great story, told simply. Will look for more by Carolyn Wall. Great story, easily read. Couldn't put it down. Will look for more by Carolyn Wall
Anonymous 4 months ago
Leaves an ache in your heart and a hole in your soul
Anonymous 4 months ago
At once unique and universal, this family and their community reveal truth and the complex emotions that develop over generations. An ugly part of history is the background for this story of strength and human weakness.
Anonymous 4 months ago
I would give this book 4 1/2 stars if possible. It was simply wonderful. All the characters were fleshed out and because of that you were pulled into this story of depression era Kentucky. What a great protaganist Olivia is. Hated to see the end coming. I read it in one setting so you know I really loved this book and will read others by her.And I know I will remembed these characters for a very long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1938 Kentucky, Olivia Harker Cross runs Harker¿s Grocery her only help comes from preadolescent Will¿m, whose mom Pauline dumped him on her before vanishing. Business is poor as no one can afford much. Looking back she thinks about her mom Ida living in a sanitarium in nearby Buelton, while her beloved Pap Tate ran a still and cared for ailing animals. Though married to Saul, for three decades Olivia has loved trumpeter Wing Harris who reciprocates, but neither has made the first move beyond howdy.----------- After Tate delivered a litter of puppies, he ran into James Arnold Phelps. Soon afterward Pap was dead and Ida had come home. Saul died not long afterward. Despondent, Olivia turned to Wing, but he rejected her. Even further upset, she chases after seedy male losers in dives. --------------- However, she began to turn it around when Pauline dropped off Will¿m on her as he is her salvation. When they hear shots fired by the mysterious Hunt Club members tracking silver-faced wolves, the pair becomes frightened as it is too cold to be outdoors hunting for sport. However, they soon have a bigger fear as the hunters stalk Olivia and Will¿m. ------------ Not for everyone as this is a strange historical thriller in which fans obtain a deep look at a beleaguered heroine who is seemingly betrayed by her loved ones whom she has loyally taken care of. Will¿m is her redemption as Olivia will do whatever it takes to keep the boy safe although that might mean breaking the perceptions she and others have of her. Fans who enjoy something different will relish a tense look at Depression Era rural Kentucky.---------- Harriet Klausner