WATCHING GLASS SHATTER by James J. Cudney: A Review

Watching a family with the surname of Glass shatter sounds like a pretty bad reading experience, but the author’s depiction shows how although shattering herself due to secrets revealed after her husband’s death, Olivia Glass holds together her family of five sons.

Synopsis: Father of the Glass family, Benjamin Glass dies unexpectedly, and Olivia, his widow and five grown sons each react to his death in their own way. Because of a secret confession “from the grave”( in two letters left to be opened after his death), Olivia decides to visit each son as she tries to make sense of the secret Ben has kept from her.  Because it involves one of the sons, although she does not know which one, she tries to discover the secret on her own. She discovers, instead, that like their father, each son has kept his own secret from her and the rest of the family.  Unraveling and revealing every family secret kept me turning the pages, guessing (often wrongly) at the secrets and surprised many times by the twists and turns.

Cudney’s characterization is excellent.  I , for one, was interested in each individual as the character’s thoughts, secrets, and actions unreeled. The major characters, Olivia and her “boys” are people I came to care about. A secondary character I grew fond of was Diana, Olivia’s sister who not only was the family “listener,” but also had figured out more than one son’s secret and didn’t blab. Significant others who were secondary characters were also believable, very likable, and integral to the story.

The writing is outstanding. Irony abounds, and the word choices and phrasing are captivating from the first page:– “…his discrete office hibernating in the corner of Brandywine’s downtown historic district…”– to the last:– “…Sewn into the last few pages of the album were parchment scrolls that displayed in beautiful calligraphy the Glass Family tree–”

I give this book a five out of five and would definitely recommend it as a “darned good read.”

THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas: A Review

This debut novel published this year (2017) has a very important message.  John Green, author of the phenomenal The Fault is in Our Stars, describes it as a “stunning, brilliant novel that will be remembered as a classic of our time.” Another author says it is “fearlessly honest and heartbreakingly human.” Yet another calls it ” tragically timeless.” I don’t know if I agree with the “classic” label, maybe so among young adults as Green’s novels have come to be, but the other descriptions are right on the money.

Starr Carter is a seventeen year old African American girl living in the “bad” part of town, but she attends a prestigious college-prep high school on a scholarship. Chris, her white boyfriend may be the only stereotype in the novel; either he  truly loves her as he says he does, or he is “too good to be true.” One night, Starr, leaving a party where shots have been fired with her friend,Khalil, whom she’s known since they were three years old, are pulled over by the police, and unarmed Khalil is shot and dies in Starr’s arms. Starr’s parents who are extremely strict are supporting and generally cool, but are drawn into the chaos that Starr’s life becomes as the media invades her neighborhood and home, first describing her as an unnamed witness, then putting a name to the witness, informing all of her white, rich friends of her involvement and her background neighborhood, something she has been hiding from them. She hears things at school like, “He had it coming,” and “He must have been a drug dealer” before they know she was there when it happened.

The author explores the gulf between black and white, rich and poor, and paints Starr as an “ordinary girl caught up in extraordinary circumstances.” Issues of racism, police violence, gangs, and poverty are explored from the “inside.” If you, like me, were taught in first grade that “The policeman is our friend; if you get lost or separated from your parents, look for one,” then you are probably privileged and white like me.  This is an important book that everyone, young person or adult, should read.