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Sweeping Up Glass    by Carolyn D. Wall order for
Sweeping Up Glass
by Carolyn D. Wall
Order:  USA  Can
Delta, 2009 (2008)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

It's hard to believe that Sweeping Up Glass is a first novel by Carolyn D. Wall. It's a gripping story taking place in the hills of Kentucky in 1938. Olivia and her grandson Will'm run Harker's grocery store and live in wretched conditions behind the store. Olivia's mother Ida, released from an insane asylum years ago, lives in a run down shack on the property, showing up for meals and company.

Olivia's father died and was buried while she was convalescing from a horrific accident. Her daughter Pauline gave birth to Will'm and then disappeared. It's hard times for their family as well as the black families who live in the mountains. Olivia's heart was given to Wing when she was a teenager. She has carried him within her for thirty years.

Something vital is not being told to her and she is determined to discover just what it is. She's in danger from Alton who lives in the town. He threatens Olivia and her grandson with death. Why? What could have happened to cause such malice? A Hunt Club run by Alton is killing off wolves on her property! Wolves she has protected all her life since they were brought to Kentucky by her family many years before.

Some evil lurks in the hills affecting her and the black community. She may die in the process of uncovering whatever it is. She's ready for this. Just so her grandson lives. Sweeping Up Glass is hard to put down. I almost read it in one sitting. It's suspenseful, thrilling, with reams of pathos, and just plain good writing.

2nd Review by Hilary Williamson:

Carolyn Wall quickly sweeps readers into her powerful novel and keeps them close and increasingly interested until the end. In Sweeping Up Glass, she moves back and forth through the life of Olivia Harker, who grows up on Big Foley Mountain in Pope County, Kentucky. Her Pap (Tate Harker) doctors animals, runs a grocery store from their home, and operates a still. Her mother Ida is institutionalized after Olivia's birth and returns to the small family many years later. Olivia spends her time with Coloreds, especially with her best friend Love Alice who has true visions of the future.

After a car accident hospitalizes Olivia for months, leaves her scarred and lame, and takes her father from her (she blames herself for his loss), she's abused by Ida, who prostitutes herself. When trumpet-playing Wing Harris comes to town with his parents (who open a hotel) he and Olivia fall in love, but a long-term relationship is not to be. Each marries another. Olivia has a daughter, Pauline, who eventually runs away, leaving her mother with a beloved grandson Will'm who 'grew tall, with a soul as straight and as right as any I'd seen.'

In the present time, with Olivia in her mid-forties, hunters organized by her family's nemesis Alton Phelps, are killing silver-faced wolves, 'the only wolves recorded in Kentucky'. Attempting to stop the slaughter, Olivia begins to dig up very dangerous secrets from the past and learns of terrible crimes against a community that's always been close to her heart. As Wing's wife dies and he and Olivia wonder if they might have a future together, she asks herself if Wing could have any involvement with the people she's known all her life who don't limit their hunting to wolves.

Once I turned the first page, I could not put Sweeping Up Glass down, and was rewarded by a gripping read building to a crescendo of a conclusion that both shocks and satisfies as it confirms Olivia's belief that 'heaven and hell are here on earth.'

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