Thursday, June 10th, 2010
The Short Take:
This powerful and thoughtful book is a worthy successor to Taylor’s National Book Critics Circle finalist. Stretching from 1941 to 1969, it doesn’t just tell the story of a man. It reflects the turmoil of our nation. A stunning read.
This book made me nervous for all the right reasons. When a book encompasses everything from the horrors of Guadalcanal in WWII to the hopes and dangers of the Civil Rights Movement, you anticipate terrible things happening to your main characters. This tension underlies every page of what is actually an uplifting story about the transformation of one man, those he draws to him, and those who would stop him.
Taylor’s solid research shows in the believability of every scene, even though this book also features a ribbon of magical realism. He gives you a fine sense of place as well as creating memorable characters. In fact, my one quibble is that some characters fade from the narrative well before I want them to.
And, boy, did the ending really, really surprise me. In a good way.
A Little Plot:
The attack on Pearl Harbor leads a young Loyal Ledford to enlist in the Marines. Soon, he is immersed in all the horrors of Guadalcanal — horrors that threaten to ruin his life afterwards as he struggles to find meaning and purpose.
Seeking help, he finds a life-changing friend and the inspiration for a dramatic change. Loyal builds a marble (the round glass kind) company where people can work and live together in peace and mutual respect. He is joined by African-Americans and others who are downtrodden. But his small community is not popular with many of his neighbors in West Virginia.
I couldn’t find a website for Glenn Taylor, but to read an interesting recent interview, click here.