The Sound of Glass

Written by Karen White
Review by Sarah Johnson

As a fan of Karen White’s Tradd Street series, which mixes quirky characters with family lore and Southern ghosts, I’ve been migrating over to her standalone works as well. They’re equally as enjoyable, although more serious in tone and issue-driven. Recounting a woman’s journey to recharge her unsettled life, her latest is also a creepy mystery wrapped in Southern style – and a book that had me dreaming of vacationing along the picturesque Carolina coast.

The dread-inducing opening poses many questions, and answers are revealed over the course of this smartly constructed novel. In 1955, Edith Heyward sets aside an unusual art project when an explosion tears through the skies above her home in Beaufort, South Carolina. Among the debris falling from above is a battered brown suitcase, which lands in Edith’s garden. It contains news so devastating that Edith can barely react when she learns her husband was killed in a car crash that same night.

Flashbacks to Edith’s later life appear throughout the main storylines, which are seen from the viewpoints of Merritt, the widow of Edith’s grandson, Cal; and Loralee, the young stepmother Merritt hasn’t seen for years, a sassy Alabama native with big hair and perfect makeup. After Merritt drives from Maine down to Beaufort after inheriting Edith’s house, she’s obliged to take in Loralee and her ten-year-old son, Merritt’s half-brother – and she also learns about the past that Cal kept hidden.

Merritt’s gradual warming up to life is a delight to witness, and Loralee is hardly the stereotypical airhead Merritt thinks she is. While I wished for more emphasis on the history and less obvious imparting of important life lessons, I still found The Sound of Glass an affecting story about love, reconciliation, and the dangerous patterns that blight families over generations.