“I had worked hard for the last fifteen years to move away from my past toward safety, and now the leaden ball of fear, one that had receded but had never truly left me, began again to grow.”
— Kathleen Grissom, Glory Over Everything
They say there’s no better lesson than those from the past. The ones filled with achievements and mistakes. The ones so horrible that our conscious could not grasp. It is in this fear of repeat that we learn and grow. Among these events, there is one that has marked history for the raw racism and pure barbarity that it illustrates. Slavery. From the visible division in beliefs between the South and the North to the exploitation of Afro-Americans, whether it’s in the fields or in the house, this period of time leaves a bitter after-taste at the mere thought of it. Kathleen Grissom succeeds in delivering a novel that takes place right in the mist of that era. Having written the largely popular The Kitchen House, she now gives fans a prequel that enlightens readers on key characters while constructing a simple and self-discovering adventure. Easily readable as a stand-alone novel, Glory Over Everything follows Jamie Pyke, son of a slave and a master, as he lives his life as a white silversmith. Until one of his servants is captured and sent South, Jamie Pyke, indebted to the father of the servant, heads South to bring his young friend back home. Haunted by his past and by the fear of being recognized for who he really is, his adventure will slowly build his character and enlighten him with a new purpose in life.
Kathleen Grissom has an amazing way with words. Absolutely mesmerizing from the first sentence to the last, the story is vivid and clear as day. Every chapter easily plays out in your mind as if you were in the middle of it. While the novel’s main protagonist remains Jamie Pyke, readers also served with several points of views from different characters. There’s no denying that each character have their own perception of events and their own story to tell. Kathleen Grissom brilliantly nails the differences between characters through their languages, thought processes and actions. The downside to this novel however lies in the overall structure. While alternating between characters and giving readers the evolution of Jamie Pyke through time, there remains a problem in flow. At some point, Jamie Pyke’s past takes up over two fifths of the book while every other character is forgotten. This creates a huge issue in terms of narration as we slowly lose the grasp on the tension created with some character’s events. Glory Over Everything still manages to present an immersive experience through humane characters, fascinating dialogues and impressive story lines.
Of all the characters, Jamie Pyke is undeniably the most complex character. While being the son of a master and a slave, he lives his life as a white person thanks to his light color skin. Nonetheless, the thought that his past could forever banish him from the privileged position he holds, his life is filled with anxiety and self-conscious questions. His decisions and actions often leads readers to ponder his morality and rights. It is quite easy to love and hate him because of his singular past. Although his character is filled with great charisma and depth, he is also often found to ask way too many questions. It’s easy to understand that he’s a conflicted character who needs to watch carefully at what he says or does, but he also repeats and leaves too many questions on the shoulders of readers. With that being said, the story built around the character is one that deserves applause. Because of his position, his experience thorought the rough slavery era manages to illustrate the diverse problems and obstacles that Afro-Americans had to live through. Kathleen Grissom also doesn’t fail to maintain the depth in characters for all the secondary individuals. There’s no doubt that characters like Pan or Robert bring out unique dilemmas and help add to the realism that Kathleen Grissom brilliantly achieve.
Vivid, action-packed and intriguing till the end, Glory Over Everything is entertainment at its finest. The story draws upon classic elements from slavery and makes sure to deliver a solid adventure. Although the novel could have benefited from more research in order to better illustrate the strain and the horrible period of slavery, Kathleen Grissom limits herself to the well-known facts of the era to lay out the foundation of the story. This helps ensure that the plot moves forward smoothly and conveys a powerful story set in 1830. While touching upon themes about love, trust, racism and slavery, Glory Over Everything makes sure to show that even in the worse moments of life, there’s always a bright sun to reach for. It’s by having a character like Jamie Pyke that this novel manages to showcase the complexity of a doomed life for an individual with a dark tone of skin. Enchanting and a quick page-turner, this stand-alone prequel is a wonderful treat for fans of The Kitchen House.
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