Summary and book reviews of Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn Wall

Sweeping Up Glass

by Carolyn Wall

Sweeping Up Glass
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2008, 278 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2009, 336 pages

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Book Summary

Destined to be a classic, Sweeping Up Glass is a tough and tender novel of love, race, and justice, and a ferocious, unflinching look at the power of family.

Olivia Harker Cross owns a strip of mountain in Pope County, Kentucky, a land where whites and blacks eke out a living in separate, tattered kingdoms and where silver-faced wolves howl in the night. But someone is killing the wolves of Big Foley Mountain–and Olivia is beginning to realize how much of her own bitter history she’s never understood: Her mother’s madness, building toward a fiery crescendo. Her daughter’s flight to California, leaving her to raise Will’m, her beloved grandson. And most of all, her town’s fear, for Olivia has real and dangerous enemies.

Now this proud, lonely woman will face her mother and daughter, her neighbors and the wolf hunters of Big Foley Mountain. And when she does, she’ll ignite a conflict that will embroil an entire community–and change her own life in the most astonishing of ways.

Chapter One

The long howl of a wolf rolls over me like a toothache. Higher up, shots ring out, the echoes stretching away till they’re not quite heard but more remembered.

There’s nobody on this strip of mountain now but me and Ida, and my grandson, Will’m. While I love the boy more than life, Ida’s a hole in another sock. She lives in the tar paper shack in back of our place, and in spite of this being the coldest winter recorded in Kentucky, she’s standing out there now, wrapped in a blanket, quoting scripture and swearing like a lumberjack. Her white hair’s ratted up like a wild woman’s.

I’m Ida’s child. That makes her my ma’am, and my pap was Tate Harker. I wish he were here instead of buried by the outhouse.

Whoever’s shooting the wolves is trespassing.

“I’ll be out with the boy for a while,” I tell Ida.

I’ve brought her a boiled egg, bread and butter, a wedge of apple wrapped in cloth, and a mug of hot tea. She ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The wolves provide a connection to the mountain, and therefore to Olivia’s past. What in nature connects you to where you live?

  2. How do you think you would react if you discovered a massive, life-changing secret?

  3. Olivia discovers that her hometown is a hotbed of racist hatred. Have you ever discovered something awful about the place that you grew up? How did you react?

  4. Are the people who kept Olivia’s secret from her truly her friends? Do you believe they genuinely had her best interests at heart?

  5. The last paragraph of the book finds Olivia contemplating that “in Aurora, there’s still division between coloreds and whites. I’m equally to blame.” Do you think that Olivia is partly to blame for this ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Fifty-three BookBrowse members reviewed this book for "First Impressions", with forty-seven rating it 4 or 5 out of 5 stars – one of our highest ratings to date. This is what they say…
Sweeping Up Glass definitely 'swept me up' from the very first page (Linda G)... You will fall in love with the unusual cast of characters, share their loves, losses and pain, and eventually be swept into a fast paced race to a conclusion that you cannot possibly have imagined (Beth P). It's a great choice for book clubs, lots of 'hidden secrets' and issues for discussion (Linda G). Read all the First Impressions Reviews   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review Members Only (753 words).

Media Reviews

O, The Oprah Magazine

Haunting, lyrical, entirely absorbing, Sweeping Up Glass deserves a place on the shelf next to classics like True Grit and To Kill A Mockingbird. Carolyn Wall is a brilliant storyteller and this book is a wonderful read

The Boston Globe

This extraordinary debut novel, both a "what happened" and a "whodunit," explores survival and the guilt that can accompany it. The writing is filled with arresting images, bitter humor, and characters with palpable physical presence. The fresh voice of that clear-eyed narrator reminded me of Scout in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. I literally could not put it down.

Kirkus Reviews

Wall gives her heroine a powerful voice in this haunting debut.

Booklist

This debut novel does so much more than traditional, tightly focused mysteries. It has a powerfully, sometimes uncomfortably, realized setting; characters who seem drawn from life; and a wide-ranging plot, bursting with complications ... A gripping story and a truly original voice.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. As the action moves inexorably to its explosive conclusion, Olivia must come to grips with past betrayals, thereby earning a second chance at love, redemption and long overdue justice.

Library Journal

Starred Review. The suspense is gripping, the danger is very real, and the reader gets caught up in Wall's powerful, moving debut. Highly recommended for all collections.

Reader Reviews

Bonnie

Thought provoking and more
This is a "must read." I agree with other reviewers that it was hard to get into at first, but later realized that I needed that background to understand the rest. I am recommending it to my friends. Carolyn Wall really tells a story; I ...   Read More

Marti

finding answers
This was a remarkable story that dragged you into it almost from the beginning. It takes place in Pope County, Kentucky during the depression with all the tensions of poverty and racism during that time. For the main character, Olivia, life is not ...   Read More

Sharon

Sweeping Up Glass
When I first started reading the book, I wasn't sure that I would like it. After I got into it a little more, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt like I was living there with them. Everyone involved had a very hard life. It almost read like a memoir ...   Read More

Joan

Sweeping Glass
I wasn't sure I was going to like this story but after a few pages, I was hooked. I actually could not put it down. The more I read the more I liked it. This was a great read. The story of Olivia in old Kentucky leading a very hard life - many ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Carolyn Wall describes Sweeping Up Glass as "fifty percent truth, and fifty percent based on fact. The other fifty percent (which speaks of my math skills) is flat made-up."

When I was born, we lived over a grocery store in Toronto. My father built crates in an alley for Canada Box, and sold meat pies from the basket of his bicycle. With my mother gone off to a small private hospital for shock treatments, we moved into rooms at the top of Gramma’s house. On Sunday evenings, Dad dismantled my crib, roped it to the top of the car, and threw all the baby things in back. Then he laid me on the seat beside him and drove around Toronto, looking for an aunt and uncle to take me. In a relative’s house, he’d set up my crib and ...

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