Glass Hearts

  • Review
By – April 16, 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. 

Sydelle Shamah has been lead­ing book club dis­cus­sions for many years, and is a pub­lished sci­ence fic­tion writer. She was pres­i­dent of the Ruth Hyman Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter of Mon­mouth Coun­ty, NJ.

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