Glass Hearts

Academy Chicago Publishers  2012

 

The jacket for Glass Hearts, a whimsical, Chagallish drawing, sets the tone for Terri Paul’s first novel. Serene, five and a half years old in 1913, when the story opens, narrates a fictional memoir. Growing up in a small Hungarian village, the little girl relates both the warmth and the hardships of peasant life as World War I looms. With a vivid imagination, she paints a tale that is fanciful, hopeful, and a little bit magical. Her father has just disappeared, and she spends the next six years seeing his ghost whenever she needs or wants him. Over the next few years, Serene learns to adjust her relationships with her peers, siblings, her cold, bitter grandmother, a single aunt whom she adores, the Jewish townspeople, and the larger village community. Later, the family emigrates to America. With a wink from the author, Harry Houdini appears at the end of the book.

The characters are fully realized. Terri Paul’s strength is that although the story is fiction, the situations are so well drawn that the reader feels that ‘this really happened.’ Peasant life at that time and place was difficult, and increasingly dangerous. The young narrator sets the events at an emotional distance, allowing the reader to absorb the information intellectually.



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