Book Review: The Marrowbone Marble Company (Taylor)

April 5, 2010

*ARC alert* The Marrowbone Marble Company will be released on May 11, 2010 by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins.

In 1941, 18 year-old Loyal Ledford is working the swing shift at a glass factory in West Virginia. He’s good at his job, and happy in his life; it doesn’t hurt that he’s found a sweetheart in Rachel Mann, a beautiful nurse who also happens to be his boss’ daughter. But when Ledford hears of the attack on Pearl Harbor over the radio, he does what so many other young men do and enlists.

In the islands of the Pacific, war is hell, and Ledford returns home to Rachel a changed man. He suffers under the memories of what he has seen and done, and can no longer summon a tolerance for the petty tyranny of the management. When he meets his distant cousins, the Bonecutter brothers, and begins having strange dreams of their land, the Marrowbone Cut, it seems right for him to abandon the life he has had and start anew making marbles. He invites along any employees of Mann Glass that want something better, including the family of Mack Wells, who are black.

Despite the tense politics of race in the American fifties and sixties, Ledford and his companions forge a small community built on tolerance and equality in the West Virginia hills, though it is constantly endangered by the Maynard clan, who hate the Bonecutters, and the Ball cousins, who vie for political power through any means necessary, and who see the Marrowbone message as a threat.

Above all, this is a story of a few good men and women who find a way to make the world a little more right without raising an undue fuss, but by the very nature of their work find challenges at every turn. Glenn Taylor’s characters live and breathe within the pages of The Marrowbone Marble Company; they sit around fires in the front yard and tell stories to their children with an equal grace to the way that they rise up to defend their own; they laugh, and they make marbles, and they weep, and they pick up the pieces. Taylor has here managed to combine popular, accessible fiction with deep literature, and in the process painted an unforgettable picture of an enormously turbulent and important era in the history of our nation. In one word, poignant.