“Glory Over Everything” by Kathleen Grissom is truly — without doubt — a book that will cause readers to lose track of time and keep turning page after page. It’s fabulous. And it’s now available in paperback.
The protagonist is Jamie Pyke, whom the reader meets as Jamie Burton, after he is adopted by a well-to-do silversmith and his wife in Philadelphia. Jamie fled north from a strange childhood. He was raised as a white child by what he found out was his grandmother. He had thought her his mother. The hateful man Jamie had thought was his brother was really his father. When his father decided to sell Jamie as a slave, he escaped but not quickly enough to save his grandmother from a fire that consumed his childhood home. He killed his father that night and then fled north.
The majority of the story is about Jamie’s relationship with those whom he befriends and those who have helped him. Most of the story takes place in 1830, but the action begins in the middle, and then goes back in time to when Jamie first arrived in Philadelphia in 1810. He tells the story of how he ended up at the Burton’s home and how they came to adopt him. His first person narrative is entwined with the first person narrative of others in the novel.
The story is also told in the voice of Pan, the young child of Henry. Henry is the escaped slave who helped Jamie when he first arrived with no idea of how to survive alone in Philadelphia. Henry told him what to do to get a job, and when Henry came to Jamie for help with his son after Henry’s wife died, Jamie took Pan in. When Pan is kidnapped and sold as a slave in the south, Jamie must go to save him.
Another narrative is that of Sukey, a slave who lived with Jamie when he was a child and helps Pan when he is taken as a slave. Her character is one who has survived countless tragedies and heartaches.
During this time, Jamie’s lover Caroline, who is the daughter of an extremely wealthy and powerful man, becomes pregnant with Jamie’s child. He is worried that although he appears white, his child might have darker skin. But circumstances make it impossible for him to tell Caroline about it. Caroline’s first person narration is brief, but touching.
The story becomes so engrossing and filled with both danger and emotion that it’s hard to put down. The writing is lovely and perfectly balanced. There is beautifully written dialogue, and enough description and details to set the scene, but not too much that might not interest the reader. One of the beautiful aspects of the book is the growth of Jamie from a rather callow and fearful young man to a responsible and principled man who decides to follow his heart and his beliefs rather than worrying about society or his own status.
It’s a story that will keep the reader thinking about it long after the last page is turned. What makes a family — blood ties or love? There is much else to ponder, from the sacrifice of some to the cruelty of others. Slavery and all its inherent cruelties are shown in full horror. Grissom also touches on those who risked everything to help the slaves escape to freedom.
While this is in a way a sequel to “The Kitchen House,” it serves in all ways as a stand- alone novel. However, like this reviewer, most who read “Glory Over Everything” will immediately want to read “The Kitchen House.”
Please note: This review is based on the final, paperback book provided for review purposes by Touchstone, the publisher.