Monday, December 25, 2017

Book Review: "Watching Glass Shatter" by James J. Cudney

Is there any better time to read a book about family dysfunction than around the holidays?

James J. Cudney's Watching Glass Shatter is an immensely readable, deliciously soapy novel about a family on the verge of being torn apart by secrets. It's also a commentary about how when it appears people have it all, they often aren't satisfied, and things are much more complicated than they seem from the outside looking in.

Ben Glass and his wife Olivia are about to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. They have five wonderful sons, and Ben is in the process of beginning to plan his retirement from the law firm he has led tirelessly for years. But the family is thrown into turmoil by Ben's sudden death, which leaves Olivia shocked, despondent, and wondering what she is going to do with the rest of her life given all that she and Ben had planned.

The truth is, Ben's death is actually not the worst of it. After reading Ben's will, his attorney reveals a secret a conflicted Ben has kept hidden for many years: when Olivia gave birth to one of their sons, the baby died shortly after his birth. Rather than tell Olivia, who was asleep at the time, Ben was able to find a young woman looking to give her infant son up for adoption, so Ben arranged for them to switch babies, and never said a word, although he always felt guilty and wanted to tell the truth.

To make matters worse, Ben directed his attorney to find his son's biological mother upon his death. Only once the woman is located (if that is possible) can the information about which son this was be revealed. Olivia feels angry, betrayed, and utterly despondent that in addition to losing her husband and best friend, she has now learned she lost a baby years ago, and she may lose one of the young men she has raised from birth.

As the attorney searches for the woman, Olivia decides to spend time visiting each of her sons, trying to determine if she can uncover the truth, but more importantly, ensuring that their lives are progressing the way that she and Ben hoped they were. In addition to experiencing a little friction with her daughters-in-law, what she finds is that each of her sons is carrying his own burden, his own secret that is torturing him. If all of these secrets are revealed they have the potential to destroy her family completely.

There is quite a lot going on in Watching Glass Shatter and I just couldn't get enough of it. Some of the secrets I could see coming, but I was hooked from start to finish. I've seen that Cudney is a fan of soap operas, and that comes as no surprise reading this book, and that's part of what makes it so enjoyable. He deftly avoids the plot or the dialogue becoming too campy or melodramatic, however.

You may know how this story will resolve itself, but it doesn't matter one bit, because you'll want to see it/read it with your own eyes. This is a compelling addition to the dysfunctional family genre, and I look forward to seeing what Cudney writes next!

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