Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book Review: This Glittering World

A few months back, I popped into Kmart for some random stuff, and, as always, my route detoured through the small aisle dedicated to books {because sometimes you find a gem somewhere other than the big book chains}. That particular day, planted in the young adult section, was this beautiful, peaceful, snowy cover that drew my attention for two reasons. One, I missed snow {and this was the only way I was going to get any}. Two, it had a really pretty bird on it {Yes. I'm that easy to please}. So I picked it up.

"Please let this sound half as interesting as the cover is pretty," I muttered as I flipped to the inside cover copy.

And you know what? It did. Just the first little intro, "T. Greenwood, acclaimed author of Two Rivers and The Hungry Season, crafts a moving, lyrical story of loss, atonement, and promises kept," had me hooked. {To be fair, I'm sort of a sucker for books that hold any promise of making me cry}.

I didn't get to it right away {had another couple books ahead of it in the queue} but I kept passing it on my bookshelf, fingering it's spine and promising it, "you next." Eventually, I made good on my promise. And I finished it in a total of maybe five hours.

About this book I can now say two things:
It was in the wrong section.  -and-  Covers can be deceiving.

This Glittering World, by T. Greenwood, gripped my heart in a stranglehold and left me reeling.

You know those giant, hand-inked bibles with parchment-thick pages you find in ancient monasteries? Well, that was the weight of this 10 oz. book on my chest when I closed its covers. {Yes, I actually weighed it}. It was heavy.

The story follows Ben, a part-time History professor, as he struggles through the aftermath of finding Ricky, a Navajo teen beaten to death and frozen under a blanket of freshly fallen snow in his front yard. Because of a past filled with loss, which he's buried deep in the corners of his heart, Ben can't seem to let this incident go. Then he meets Shadi, Ricky's older sister, and their shared experience of loss opens a channel to Ben's buried past and gives him a reason not to let it go. The authorities chalk up Ricky's death as alcohol-related, despite the obvious foul-play. So Ben, in hopes of filling the cracks his past has left in his heart, begins searching for the truth about Ricky's death - searching for justice. At the same time, Ben begins to look inward - to question everything about his life, including his fiancĂ©, Sara.

Now, I have to tell you, Ben didn't get much of my sympathy. In fact, most of the time, I pretty much just wanted to smack him. Or hit him with my car...
He's so deadset on dealing justice for Ricky's death, and fulfilling his own desires, that he lets himself overlook the injustices he's inflicting upon Sara {and later, upon Shadi and himself as well}.
He's a selfish man and an unlikeable character. He does nothing to change himself or the situation {that he caused}. He admits to himself that Sara deserves better, but he won't better himself, nor will he man up and leave her so that she might find someone better. Hardly any of his other choices {or lack therof} are any better. And the ones that are come too late.  
He is, without a doubt, a tragic hero. He makes one bad decision after another, and never learns from his mistakes.

Which is part of why I very quickly found myself empathizing with Sara. At first, I felt as though it was some individual quirk of mine that I identified better with her. She is often sullen, guarded, angry, and suspicious, after all. But Ben's own explanations for her attitude and behavior, despite his best efforts to convince me otherwise, justifies her. Sure, the girl has flaws. She loves Ben {or maybe the idea of him} to a fault. And she's constantly jumping to the negative in every situation, unable to find a way to make herself happy. But I get it. Her reactions may not be the best, but they aren't invalid.

Then there's Shadi. As someone with "card-carrying" Native American relatives, and just enough Native blood to be considered one myself, I liked Shadi right away. In fact, by the end of the book, despite her role as "the other woman," I respected her the most of any of the main characters. She was wise, strong, and reacted the way I would hope any woman who caught my husband's affection would when she found out Ben was {engaged to be} married: She backed the hell off and called him out for being a "selfish asshole" {her words}. She was, at times, the only voice of reason in this book.

But even Shadi's words of wisdom weren't enough to save Ben from himself. Especially because he didn't listen to them. And so, at the end of this book, I was left uttering one {vast and heart-breaking} question: "...at what cost?"

And that is why, despite a five-day struggle to get my words in order, I chose to review this book. It was not only beautifully written, but here I am, so worked up by these characters actions that I've taken days picking through all the things I had to say about them in order to write this. Days, I might add, which I refused to pick up another book {I have a very large to-read pile screaming my name} until I could write out my feelings about this one. If you want characters who jump off the page, whether you like them or hate them, This Glittering World has them.

Am I saying this is an easy, happy read? Hell no. {Sure, it was a quick read... But only because I couldn't bare to put it down without knowing what happened to these people.}

What I'm saying is this book meets my criteria {previously mentioned in What I Read vs What I Write: Alexis's Take} for a good read. I was invested. Completely. It gripped me, it kept me thinking on it days after I'd finished, and it had at least one character I wanted to do physical harm to.

A note of caution: If you have been through any tough or life-changing situation that you're still emotionally dealing with {which may or may not appear in the pages} this story may make you spiral into a place you don't want to be - that you might have worked hard to get out of. BUT it may be extremely cathartic, pulling you out of the last of whatever it is you're going through. {Okay. Now I can at least say, "Don't say I didn't warn you."}

No comments:

Post a Comment