Glow by Jessica Marie Tuccelli, narrated by Donna Postel
Published in audio by Highbridge Audio; published in print by Viking Adult, an imprint of Penguin
From the publisher:
In the autumn of 1941, Amelia J. McGee, a young woman of Cherokee and Scotch-Irish descent, and an outspoken pamphleteer for the NAACP, hastily sends her daughter, Ella, alone on a bus home to Georgia in the middle of the night—a desperate measure that proves calamitous when the child encounters two drifters and is left for dead on the side of the road.
Ella awakens in the homestead of Willie Mae Cotton, a wise root doctor and former slave, and her partner, Mary-Mary Freeborn, tucked deep in the Takatoka Forest. As Ella heals, the secrets of her lineage are revealed.
Shot through with Cherokee lore and hoodoo conjuring, Glow transports us from Washington, D.C., on the brink of World War II to the Blue Ridge frontier of 1836, from the parlors of antebellum manses to the plantation kitchens where girls are raised by women who stand in as mothers. As the land with all its promise and turmoil passes from one generation to the next, Ella’s ancestral home turns from safe haven to mayhem and back again.
Thoughts on the story:
Tuccelli’s writing is lovely, and the concept behind Glow is a very interesting one. The people of the Blue Ridge mountains are not often written about, nor are biracial communities in general. The problem lies in the arrangement of the story. In some ways, Glow takes the reader ever deeper into the past, with stories inside stories, and then brings them back out to the 1940s, but the progression is not quite as smooth as that, with some jumping around. The jumping of time periods is inconsistent, and occasionally happens after so long that the reader may have forgotten what they have already learned about the characters and completely lost track of how their stories relate to one another. Tuccelli does provide a family tree, but more textual clues – and trying to do fewer things in general – would make this a stronger book.
Thoughts on the audio production:
This production just did not work for me at all. Donna Postel, the narrator, was not really the problem, I think she did the best she could with the source material, but I am not convinced that Glow is particularly well suited to audio, given Tuccelli’s reliance on her family tree instead of textual clues to show connections between characters. I also think that, if anything, there should have been multiple narrators, each taking a different time period and person’s story. Having a single narrator move between the time periods, in the way they were arranged, ended up causing the entire story to run together, without enough distinction.
For more on the audio production, please see my review for Audiofile Magazine:.
Glow is a bit overambitious, and doesn’t quite achieve the ends it desires. The audio production is particularly weak, and not a way I would recommend approaching this.
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