Sweeping Up Glass


After reading Carolyn Wall’s debut novel, I literally could not move. With its haunting images of racial bias from the past, this book is terrifyingly real. It is 1938, during some say the coldest winter ever in Kentucky. Olivia Harker and her grandson Will’m discover that someone is killing silver-faced wolves on their property. Olivia has an idea who is responsible but doesn’t know why they are targeting them.

They live behind Harker’s Grocery, and yet her mam, Ida, lives in a tar paper shack out back. Olivia had her husband put her there many years ago, as she was unable to forgive her after years of neglect and physical abuse. On the other hand, she is very close to her pap, Tate, a self-made veterinarian.

One day, with Olivia in the car, Tate has an accident that alters Olivia’s life. Her pap is buried in an unmarked grave next to the outhouse, but she hopes to move him someday.

Olivia befriends and is also protected by members of the black community during a time of shameful segregation. She also stumbles upon covert meetings of white men with talk of racial hatred. She hears about stories of young blacks disappearing. Betrayal and an old secret are unearthed when Olivia’s own life is threatened.

In this twisting tale, which offers a shocking secret and a bit of romance, Ms. Wall has created original, distinct characters that will stand the test of time.


Share this review

Buy "The Beggar at the Gate & Other Stories" for £2.05 (Kindle edition)

12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award







(US) $24.95
(UK) £15.95

(US) 9781590585122




Appeared in

Reviewed by