Thursday, March 16, 2017

TBT Review: The Sound of Glass by Karen White

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The Sound of Glass by Karen White
Publisher: PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL / Signet Romance, DAW
Publication date: May 12, 2015
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
TBT review date: May 12, 2015

Publisher's description

The New York Times bestselling author of A Long Time Gone now explores a Southern family’s buried history, which will change the life of the woman who unearths it, secret by shattering secret. 

It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward’s husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news—Cal’s family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal’s reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.

Charting the course of an uncertain life—and feeling guilt from her husband’s tragic death—Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal’s unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt’s, will change and define her as she navigates her new life—a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year-old half-brother.

Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Low Country.

My review

I received a complimentary copy of The Sound of Glass in exchange for my honest review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.

You may have noticed that I've been pretty hard on the last couple realistic fiction books I reviewed. Well, that ends here. In fact, I've had a hard time thinking of anything really critical to say about The Sound of Glass. Karen White has created a wonderful set of characters, broken and flawed, but so very worthy of compassion. [NOTE: a downside to throwback reviews is the references that now don't make sense! The "pretty hard on the last couple" comment is from 2015... not current.]

At its core, The Sound of Glass is about an unlikely sisterhood of survivors of domestic violence. They are tied together across decades and by coincidence. Every character has tragedy in their background (or in their present). Each chapter shifts in voice between characters. In current time, there is Merritt, a recent widow of a violent man and Loralee, Merritt's step-mom who is only five years older. With a voice spanning across the decades before, from 1955 to 1993, the reader hears Edith's perspective. Edith is the owner of the grand Southern home that is the backdrop to the story. She was the grandmother of Merritt's recently deceased husband and Merritt finds herself inheriting this old house, half a country (and, practically, a whole world) away from the only home she has ever known in Maine. 

Ms. White took a rather complicated story line with a very complex set of characters and wove them beautifully together into a story of new chances and redemptions. My favorite character was Loralee. Though all the characters in the book exhibited strength and grace (even and most especially when they didn't believe themselves to possess either), Loralee was the one who helped build up and fortify everyone else. She had more strength, sass and constitution in her pinky than most of us have in our whole bodies. And she did it all in lipstick and high heels. A reader who has never lived in the South may not find her character believable, but, having lived in Alabama for 15 years (Loralee's home state), I can say she is completely believable - a steel magnolia, indeed. 

When a book covers a trigger issue - in this case domestic violence - I like to touch on it so readers who may be sensitive to the topic can make an informed decision. While domestic violence is a central theme of this book, there are no scenes graphically depicting it. There are references to what happened - a hand broken in a car door, being held under water - but all references are made in remembrance or in the words of a letter. There is one first hand account when the abusive grandson slaps Edith in one of her "flashback" chapters. This book is most about the victims finding themselves again and being strong. 

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys women's lit, realistic fiction and books set in the South. The book also has a big mystery element to it for those who like a good mystery. Both Merritt and her late husband hid secrets from each other, as such, much of the book is Merritt uncovering his secrets and revealing her own. Be sure to keep a box of tissues handy! 

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