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Glory Over Everything


Glory Over Everything

The 2010 publication of THE KITCHEN HOUSE is the kind of success story most debut novelists only dream about. Originally released without much fanfare, Kathleen Grissom’s historical novel about Southern slavery and its personal tolls took the slow road to bestseller status, relying on word-of-mouth recommendations from booksellers and, most importantly, by book clubs around the country, many of whom Grissom herself has met with. Now the thousands of book group members who adored THE KITCHEN HOUSE should make plans to include GLORY OVER EVERYTHING, its companion, on their calendar of upcoming discussions.

GLORY OVER EVERYTHING gets its title from a quote by Harriet Tubman, expressing the wonder and gratitude she felt upon receiving her freedom from slavery. It’s a fitting quote with which to open the novel, as the narrative focuses largely on the story of free black men and women, on the joy they feel at not being subjected to the same brutal fates as their Southern brothers and sisters but also on the uncertainty and fear that can still lurk on the perimeters of their lives.

"Grissom clearly has done her research and, more importantly, has continued to capture the strong emotions and tense, life-changing circumstances in which these characters find themselves."

It’s 1830, and at the center of the novel is Jamie Pyke, now known as James Burton following his adoption by the silversmith under whom he served as an apprentice. Pyke, who was just a boy in THE KITCHEN HOUSE, is now all grown up, living in Philadelphia and passing successfully as a white man, despite knowing that his mother was a slave. James is a respected member of Philadelphia society, but remains in constant fear that his real identity will be revealed and that the patrollers who once pursued him will follow him all the way to Philadelphia.

Due to a variety of personal circumstances (including a death threat by the father of the married woman with whom he’s having an affair), James sets off on a dangerous journey back South, ostensibly to research and sketch birds for a local museum but really to look for his young house servant Pan, the son of an escaped slave who, he fears, has been captured from the Philadelphia docks and sold into slavery. James’ journey will take him not only close to the site of his birth and boyhood but also into great danger; his eye patch makes him very distinctive, and it’s entirely possible that the patrollers who once pursued him could still identify him even decades later. Fortunately, James also encounters numerous brave and selfless individuals, both white and black, who share his desire for freedom and his determination to start a new life for himself.

GLORY OVER EVERYTHING is bound to satisfy those many readers who finished THE KITCHEN HOUSE and asked themselves, “But what happened next?” It also works fairly well as a stand-alone novel, since Grissom introduces several new characters and does an admirable job of providing background information on the rest without getting bogged down in backstories. The narrative moves forward steadily, despite shifts among several different characters’ perspectives and personal histories and a first half that is determinedly nonlinear in its storytelling. The concluding chapters may rely somewhat too heavily on coincidence, as well as on some anachronistic character traits, to feel completely authentic.

Nevertheless, Grissom clearly has done her research and, more importantly, has continued to capture the strong emotions and tense, life-changing circumstances in which these characters find themselves.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on April 6, 2016

Glory Over Everything
by Kathleen Grissom

  • Publication Date: February 21, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • ISBN-10: 1476748454
  • ISBN-13: 9781476748450