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.)
“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
“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
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
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.