Olivia Harker Cross, the protagonist and narrator in Carolyn Wall's captivating "Sweeping Up Glass" is one of the novel's strongest selling points. It's been a good while since I have been so wrapped up in the complexities of a fictional character that I have to heartily recommend this terrific and surprising new book. Admirable, stubborn, heroic, and infuriating--Olivia's fresh, clear, and blunt voice drive Wall's deceptively simple story to unexpected depths.
Living a hard hand-to-mouth existence in rural Kentucky, Olivia supports a mother just this side of madness and a grandson abandoned by her daughter. When someone starts murdering wolves on her land, this catalyst leads Olivia to explore her family history and to unearth some bitter and terrifying truths about the place she calls home. The novel, both moving and exciting, is alive and haunting as it unfolds in Olivia's own words and as she starts to unravel the past and to understand the present--the reader is right there with her. I was fully committed to Olivia and her quest for answers.
Spanning decades and tracking four generations of a proud, but troubled, Kentucky family--this small and compulsively entertaining story is at once straightforward and multi-layered. Part family drama, part mystery, part social commentary, part romance, and part thriller--it's an amazing feat that Wall has accomplished in fitting so much content into such a small volume. And to do so with so much gusto and originality left me breathless. A nearly perfect little book marred by a bit of abruptness in the final pages, Wall's storytelling style has drawn comparisons to Harper Lee. A huge compliment in and of itself! Unlike Lee, though, and her masterpiece "To Kill A Mockingbird"--I just hope there's a lot more to come from Wall. KGHarris, 8/09.