The Sound of Glass by Karen White

By Ekta R. Garg

May 20, 2015

Rated: Bordering on Bypass it

Two women bound by family but estranged by differences end up sharing a home. Despite the tension they soon become involved in a mystery decades old, which forces them to spend more time together than either anticipated. Author Karen White gives readers vivid descriptions of an iconic South Carolina town with a storyline that doesn’t quite live up to those descriptions in her book The Sound of Glass.

Merritt Heyward has come to Beaufort with one goal in mind: to start her life over. Two years have passed since her husband’s death, but their marital discord still hovers over her. Merritt needs something that will function as a dramatic contrast to her current state of affairs; what better way to do that than leave Maine behind?

The decision to move almost gets made for her when she finds out she has a place to live. Her late husband’s grandmother, also deceased, left her Beaufort home to him. As the only living heir now, Merritt inherits the home and her new life. When she gets to South Carolina, though, her new life comes with its own complications.

Merritt is no stranger to grief; when she was 12 years old her mother died in a terrible accident. For many years she and her father defined the family outline…until her father falls in love with another woman and marries her. Merritt can’t stand her new stepmother for a variety of reasons, the biggest being that her stepmother is close to her own age. She knows of a half-brother but has never met him. That changes, however, when she moves down south.

Not long after she arrives in her new house Merritt’s stepmother, Loralee, and half-brother, Owen, show up on the front porch. They need a place to stay, Loralee says, until she can get back on her feet. Because they’re both widows, she feels like they have something in common. Could Merritt spare them some space?

Even with her intense dislike of Loralee, Merritt can’t exactly refuse. Her new home is huge—definitely too large for one person. With great reluctance Merritt agrees to let Loralee and Owen move in. The discovery of a mystery tied to Merritt’s family soon eclipses her dislike of Loralee. As Merritt, Loralee, and Merritt’s brother-in-law, Gibbes, work through the information on hand, Merritt begins to understand that maybe she does have the strength to let go of her heartache.

Author Karen White captures the landscape and physical beauty of South Carolina in sumptuous details. Her descriptions convey the essence of the book as well as its emotion and become the book’s strongest point. In fact, White managed to bring tears to this former South Carolina native’s eyes. Beaufort features as strongly in The Sound of Glass as any of the characters—maybe a little more so.

White chooses to tell Merritt’s portions of the story in first person and gives Loralee equal space but with a third-person point of view. Because of the depth of Merritt’s pain and Loralee’s function as Merritt’s mentor, the book may have benefited more from a switch in points of view so readers could know Loralee better and get a little breathing space from Merritt’s grief. It would also have helped to ground both characters in reality and not leave them in stereotypical roles.

Also, White may have intended to use the book as a vehicle to discuss how abuse can get handed from one generation to the next almost as an heirloom. Instead, her plot devices and character traits jar the reader from the overall theme. Edith, the late grandmother from whom Merritt inherits the house, comes across as a helpless bystander in some situations and a take-charge actor in others. The dichotomy doesn’t work, and it will leave readers thinking that if Edith had such gumption to pursue a life passion with such dedication she should have had more than enough energy and interest to change the course of events for her family.

Despite its exquisite detailing of South Carolina, I would rate The Sound of Glass as Bordering on Bypass it.