Review: Glow, by Jessica Maria Tuccelli

by Jessica Maria Tuccelli
Viking Adult
March 15, 2012
336 pgs
$25.95 Hardcover / $12.99 Ebook
New last week from Viking, Glow is a stunner; there’s absolutely no pun or irony intended in my giving it a glowing review.

Jessica Maria Tuccelli’s debut novel, a sentimental ghost story about mothers and daughters, spans six generations, one hundred years, and is told from multiple distinct and original perspectives; it is the stuff that a fiction-lover’s dreams are made of.

The narrative begins in Washington D.C. in 1941. A young woman, caught in the midst of raciopolitical tensions and threatened by the opposition, is left alone with her young daughter after her husband is drafted into World War II. Out of fear, she puts her daughter Ella on a bus for her childhood home in Appalachian Hopewell, Georgia. But when Ella’s bus breaks down, and two drifters attack her and leave her for dead, the story of her roots is revealed with expansive force.

As the story jumps back several generations, dipping into the shared youth of Ella’s parents, and into the lives of those that came before them, Tuccelli’s narrative forms a splendidly gnarled family tree, reaching back to antebellum. And what begins as a modern historical narrative shows its roots to be that of a ghostly tale of injustice and lost love.

This is an exquisitely crafted novel that reveals itself slowly and carefully by peeling away the generational layers; it divulges the depth of Ella’s heritage in a style reminiscent of Ian McEwan’s Atonement, or of the short stories of Ambrose Bierce. Tuccelli is clearly a gifted writer with a knack for the untamed terrain of familial drama. I think we might reasonably expect even greater things from this author in the future. And I even love the cover.


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