Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom is so much more than a book about slavery. It looks at this difficult time from a unique perspective; that of a man who is born to a white man and black woman, who is therefore considered of mixed blood and subject to the same lack of rights that black people are in that time period. Personally, I found this revelation surprising that someone who looked white could still be enslaved because of their family history. Is this something that others found surprising, or am I just uneducated about this topic?
Jamie Pyke is the protagonist of the story, as mentioned above. Apparently he appeared in Grissom’s first novel The Kitchen House as a secondary character, but Glory Over Everything is firmly rooted in his life. We find him living the life of a wealthy white aristocrat when the book begins, but he is soon plunged into danger when he returns south where he escaped from his old life, fearful of being discovered and re-captured. He is one of the most well-developed characters I have ever read about. Although he has many redeeming features (his kindness towards the black people in his employ for instance), the reader is still faced with his other unsavoury qualities as well; for example he is disgusted by slaves that he sees in the streets even though he was technically once one himself. He begins to realize his hypocrisy and prejudice as the book continues, but he is very much a flawed character throughout.
There’s a bit of everything in the story to keep the pages turning too. A love story dominates the first half of the book, when Jamie finds himself falling for a woman stuck in a loveless marriage. However, things don’t end well there, and quickly the reader is dropped into an action novel of sorts when Jamie travels South. An underground railroad of sorts becomes the main focus for the last half of the book, as Jamie and his fellow travellers try to outrun the slave runners and return north. It’s obvious that Grissom has done lots of research in this area, because the settings that the characters find themselves are in so beautifully described yet realistic, that it’s a joy to revel in their surroundings. I should mention I felt a bit guilty at the fact that I enjoyed these parts, because after all, many escaped slaves died in these same areas trying to outrun their captors, so it’s a gruesome part of history, but the Great Dismal Swamp sounded like such an exotic place that it made me want to visit!
Grissom has performed an interesting feat; she’s made an awful time in America’s history seem beautiful. People’s surprising kindness, an environment that is a feast for the senses, and a plot full of twists and turns have all come together to create a book that’s enjoyable to read. Especially good for book clubs, there’s lots of discussion topics that can be found in these pages.
This review is part of an ongoing book tour for this lovely novel; if you’d like to see what other bloggers thought, check out the poster above to see when other reviews are being posted. And of course-pick up a copy so you can see for yourself how wonderful these characters are.