Review and Giveaway: “Glow” by Jessica Maria Tuccelli

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review and Giveaway:  “Glow” by Jessica Maria TuccelliGlow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli
Published: 2012 by Penguin Books
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: the publisher
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Jessica Maria Tuccelli’s debut novel “Glow” is a joy to read.  I’d highly recommend it, and invite you all to participate in a giveaway sponsored by the publisher.  Just leave a comment to enter.  I’ll draw the winner out of a hat on May 31.  Please include your e-mail address so that I can contact you if you win.

And now, for my review…

“Glow” is a historical novel set in the American South.  The story centers around a little girl named Ella McGee.  Her father is black and her mother, a civil rights activist, is Cherokee.  When Ella’s mother is threatened before a protest, she puts Ella on a bus back to her own hometown in Georgia, hoping to keep her safe.

While Ella’s story forms the basic framework of the novel, Ella herself doesn’t appear very much.  Instead, Tuccelli tells the story of several generations of Ella’s family, ranging in setting from mountain cabins to plantations.  Through each story, Tuccelli weaves a compelling commentary on race relations and sacrifices made to protect one’s family.

Having so many protagonists in a book of this length should have turned out very badly, but Tuccelli pulled it off masterfully.  Each character’s story is well developed, and watching the relationships between them intertwine gave this book a layer of depth and complexity that I hadn’t expected.  Each character is memorable and unique.  There is the story of Riddle Young, a Cherokee man who had a son, Alger, with a neighbor’s slave, whom he loved, only to realize that the child would be born into slavery.  Riddle spends years indentured as an overseer in order to convince the plantation owner to let him buy his son’s freedom.  Meanwhile Alger falls in love with Willie Mae, who can see ghosts and spirits.  Then there’s Mia, Ella’s mother, as she realizes for the first time as a child that people hate her because of her race.  Mia is such a strong character, and yet we see her desperate worry as she realizes that fighting for her rights places both her own life and that of her daughter in danger.

Each generation in Tuccelli’s story struggles with its own crises, and her characters do everything they can to overcome the obstacles that they face in life.  There is violence, and bad things happen to good people, but at the same time the overall tone is one of hope.

Oh, and did I mention that there’s a ghost story?

The spiritual and paranormal elements in “Glow” enhance the story, but don’t take anything away from the central message.  Tuccelli’s style reminds me of Isabelle Allende’s magical realism.  There are ghosts, but their presence in the story is subtle, and the overall focus is on creating snapshots of race relations throughout a family’s history over the course of several generations.

If you enjoyed “The Secret Life of Bees,” “The Help,” or anything by Isabel Allende, then you’ll probably love “Glow” as well.  I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to share it with you.

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57 comments

        1. Close to done with school. I’ve got one last class which I’m taking this summer, then I’ll officially be graduated. I can’t wait! Even better–my last class is on genre fiction, so it’s right up my alley.

          Work is going pretty well. I love my job, and am hoping they decide to keep me past October, which is when my contract is up for renewal. When I first started grad school, I was worried that I’d made the wrong career choice and wouldn’t like being a librarian, or that it would somehow make me tired of seeing books all the time. Luckily, the opposite is true. 🙂

    1. I’ve been a huge fan of Allende for years now, so it’s awesome to see something that has a bit of the same feel to it–a complex historical backdrop with just a hint of magic that seems to be an organic part of a character’s story. Not a lot of authors manage to pull it off without veering right into the fantasy genre (which I love, but this is something quite different).

  1. This book has been on my “to-read” list forever. I love stories based in the South and ghosts make everything better.

  2. Glow has been on my to-read list for a while. After reading your review, the book moved to the top. I look for good debut books. Many protagonists, a tone of hope, a subtle approach to the paranormal, are all reasons I would enjoy Glow.

  3. I love the premise of this story, and enjoyed “The Secret Life of Bees” and anything by Isabel Allende. It would be wonderful to win a copy of “Glow”! Thanks for the opportunity!

  4. I have GLOW on my nightstand right now (from the library) but how I would love to win a copy to keep! Southern Lit is my very favorite genre. Please enter me to win!

  5. I’ve had this book on my want list for awhile, I would love to win a copy.
    nmc69 (at) sbcglobal (dot) net

  6. Historical novels and historical non-fiction is the way that I learn and one of the ways I expand my awareness. Books have kept me in this world and for this I am forever thank-full! Peace, smiles and many belly laughs to us all!

    1. I agree, historical novels and non-fiction are a great way to learn and expand one’s awareness. “Glow” is one of those books that I am dying to read in print, rather than on my kindle — I go back and forth between ebooks and print. They both have their advantages!

  7. I’m also very happy to have read it in paperback version and not on the e-reader. Glow has a wonderfully detailed family tree at the beginning of the book, and with all its characters and family history, being able to flip quickly back and forth between the page you were at and over to the family tree(s) was wonderfully helpful. Without being able to flip back to see where the characters connected would surely mean you lost out on so much of the bonds across many generations, and their three, intertwined races. Glow is, in the very least, a fantastic tale of connection and how each of these characters – white, black, native Indian – are intertwined with one another.

  8. This looks great. I loved the Help, Saving CeeCee Honecut and the secret life of bees. I would love to win!

  9. I would LOVE to read this novel of the South esp. since my family has lived in the region since colonial times!! Thanks for the #armchairbea giveaway. I can be reached @ mosthappyreader at gmail dot com.

  10. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of the book! It sounds worthy of my limited time… (krstrpp at hotmail dot com)

  11. OOOHH This sounds like something that both me and my daughter would enjoy!! Thanks for the giveaway and the review!!!!

  12. I signed up to follow you via email – Just wanted to agree with you that books with some historical interest are so much fun to read, besides ghosts and Cherokee Indian time in here in Oklahoma and when we lived in Georgia we have alot of friends who have Cherokee, Choctaw and creek Indian blood lines, plus two of my daughters in law do also. . I hope you had an excellent time at the blog conference.