Published by Simon & Schuster on April 5, 2016
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration.
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A novel of family and long-buried secrets along the treacherous Underground Railroad.
The author of the New York Times bestseller and beloved book club favorite The Kitchen House continues the story of Jamie Pyke, son of both a slave and master of Tall Oakes, whose deadly secret compels him to take a treacherous journey through the Underground Railroad.
Published in 2010, The Kitchen House became a grassroots bestseller. Fans connected so deeply to the book’s characters that the author, Kathleen Grissom, found herself being asked over and over “what happens next?” The wait is finally over.
This new, stand-alone novel opens in 1830, and Jamie, who fled from the Virginian plantation he once called home, is passing in Philadelphia society as a wealthy white silversmith. After many years of striving, Jamie has achieved acclaim and security, only to discover that his aristocratic lover Caroline is pregnant. Before he can reveal his real identity to her, he learns that his beloved servant Pan has been captured and sold into slavery in the South. Pan’s father, to whom Jamie owes a great debt, pleads for Jamie’s help, and Jamie agrees, knowing the journey will take him perilously close to Tall Oakes and the ruthless slave hunter who is still searching for him. Meanwhile, Caroline’s father learns and exposes Jamie’s secret, and Jamie loses his home, his business, and finally Caroline.
Heartbroken and with nothing to lose, Jamie embarks on a trip to a North Carolina plantation where Pan is being held with a former Tall Oakes slave named Sukey, who is intent on getting Pan to the Underground Railroad. Soon the three of them are running through the Great Dismal Swamp, the notoriously deadly hiding place for escaped slaves. Though they have help from those in the Underground Railroad, not all of them will make it out alive.
Last week I wrote about Kathleen Grissom’s debut novel, The Kitchen House. After reading it, I immediately requested a galley of its sequel, Glory Over Everything. This follow-up novel focuses on Belle’s son Jamie Pyke, who has made a pretty decent life for himself in Philadelphia.
Glory Over Everything is narrated primarily in the voices of James and Pan, though one more voice appears later on (a nice surprise for those who’ve read The Kitchen House). James’s voice is a little stiff; it doesn’t have the same finesse as Pan’s. And I’ll go ahead and state up front: I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending of this novel. It was okay, I didn’t feel like throwing the book or anything… it was just a little too tidy for me.
However, Glory Over Everything does a really nice job of portraying life in “free” Philadelphia, and the ways that was much more complicated than one might think. People who were known in society as abolitionists often still profited from slavery through their out-of-state holdings. The lines between “for” and “against” slavery weren’t perfectly clear-cut. Also, the transition from being a slave to being free and having to earn a living wage was difficult. On top of that, PTSD was just as real then as it is today.
The Underground Railroad comes up a bit later in the novel. This thread shattered a lot of my own preconceived notions about the logistics involved. I realized I hadn’t learned much about how people traveled between these hiding places. Reading about that journey was powerful: There was one scene that reminded me of a moment in The Diary of Anne Frank that I will never forget.
The pace feels slow at first, but hang in there—it picks up about halfway through and eventually has you racing to the end.