REVIEW: THE SOUND OF GLASS, BY KAREN WHITE

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Our story begins in 1955 with Edith Heyward, in Beaufort, South Carolina, where she secretly works on a project up in the attic of the old antique home, worrying about her husband’s return from his trip. It is obvious that she is afraid of her husband, and the bruises tell us more.

Nearby, her young son CJ is playing. With the breezes come the sound of the wind chimes scattered all around; Edith makes them from sea glass.

When two tragedies occur that night, everything changes for Edith.

Fast forward to 2014: we meet Merritt Heyward, whose husband Cal, the grandson of Edith, has died. She has left her home in Maine, as she has inherited the family home in Beaufort. Merritt has her own secrets and fears, and she just wants to curl up alone in the old house and decide what to do next. But will the stream of visitors change everything for her? Why is her deceased father’s wife Loralee there with her ten-year-old son Owen? What is her agenda, and what are the secrets she is keeping?

The Sound of Glass is a lovely, atmospheric tale full of family secrets, revealing them one by one, like unpeeling an onion. But will the price of the revelations be worth it in the long run?

The characters were the kind that grip your heart and make you feel every available emotion, the ones you must feel for the mother (Loralee), who always has a bright smile and a humorous Southern saying, but who has taken a difficult journey for her son; for Merritt, leaving behind the dark shadows of her life with Cal, but holding tight to the secrets until her heart opens again in the presence of the wonderful new people in the life she has fallen into. And then there was Gibbes, who was the kind of brother-in-law who could see beyond the surface and realize what those around him needed.

Was everything that happened to them a coincidence? There were connections and threads that seemingly bound many of them together, some before they were born. What is the meaning of that kind of serendipity? A wonderful story that made me laugh and cry, and close the final page wishing I could read more about them all. Five stars.

 

REVIEW: BEACH MUSIC, BY PAT CONROY

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With lyrical prose and haunting imagery, the author tells the numerous stories that make up Beach Music: A Novel, beginning by introducing the characters of Jack McCall and his daughter Leah, who have fled to Rome after the suicide of Shyla, Jack’s wife and Leah’s mother.

Jack grew up in Waterford, South Carolina, a true Southerner blessed with all that makes a person feel that particular spirit and identity. Coming of age with the sound of the waves and the beach music that lulls the nighttime moments and greets the day with each sunrise, a child can come to a true understanding of all that Nature has to give.

Narrated in Jack’s first person voice, the story helps us feel the lost little boy inside, along with the angry, embittered soul who has been scarred by tragedy and betrayal. Each decade of his life has been marked by something auspicious, just as it has for his whole generation. But others have their stories, too, and Shyla’s parents, George and Ruth Fox, barely escaped the Holocaust to live to tell about it. But they kept their true stories hidden, even as those tales would mark their lives indelibly, just as the next generation would be marked by the Sixties and the lingering trauma of the Vietnam War. And Jack’s own mother Lucy, who created a fictional background, has a true story to share as well.

While some of the stories are poignant and bring us the powerful moments of young childhood and early adolescence, with the fishing trips and the childish pranks, it would be the betrayals of a contentious Antiwar Movement and those who would turn on their best friends that would remind us that nothing can injure us more in life than the turning away of those we call friends or family.

What has to happen to bring Jack home to South Carolina? What will he discover about his family and his legacy that will ultimately allow him to heal? And what mock trial staged by an old friend will finally bring out those last hidden truths and show Jack how to forgive?

There is nothing like an epic story told with special attention to the details, as well as one that allows the thoughts and feelings of the characters to unfold gradually, that can bring the reader into the midst of the tale and feel along with the characters. An unforgettable novel. 5 stars.

SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAYS: INTROS/TEASERS – “BEACH MUSIC”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Should Be Reading.

Today’s featured book is a chunkster I plan to read early in the New Year.  (768 pages).  It’s Beach Music, by Pat Conroy.

 

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Intro:  In 1980, a year after my wife leapt to her death from the Silas Pearlman Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina, I moved to Italy to begin life anew, taking our small daughter with me.  Our sweet Leah was not quite two when my wife, Shyla, stopped her car on the highest point of the bridge and looked over, for the last time, the city she loved so well.  She had put on the emergency brake and opened the door of our car, then lifted herself up to the rail of the bridge with the delicacy and enigmatic grace that was always Shyla’s catlike gift.  She was also quick-witted and funny, but she carried within her a dark side that she hid with bright allusions and an irony as finely wrought as lace.  She had so mastered the strategies of camouflage that her own history had seemed a series of well-placed mirrors that kept her hidden from herself.

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Teaser: “Do you remember how much I loved you as a baby, Leah?” Lucy asked, hugging the child to her.

“I can’t remember anything about South Carolina,” Leah said.  “I’ve tried, but I just can’t.” (p. 275).

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Blurb:  PAT CONROY, America’s preeminent storyteller, delivers a sweeping novel of lyric intensity and searing truth–the story of Jack McCall, an American expatriate in Rome, scarred by tragedy and betrayal. His desperate desire to find peace after his wife’s suicide draws him into a painful, intimate search for the one haunting secret in his family’s past that can heal his anguished heart.

Spanning three generations and two continents, from the contemporary ruins of the American South to the ancient ruins of Rome, from the unutterable horrors of the Holocaust to the lingering trauma of Vietnam, Beach Music sings with life’s pain and glory. It is another masterpiece in PAT CONROY’S legendary list of beloved novels.

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What do you think?  Would you keep reading, or does the chunkster aspect of the book give you pause?  For some reason, I feel more ready to read a hefty book at the beginning of the New Year.