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Like Shards of Glass

Military Spouse Book Review:

In Like Shards of Glass, author R.H. Ramsey explores what happens to people drawn together by tragedy — not rising above the tragedy, necessarily, but pulled by the darkness of that tragedy as if into a whirlpool. At the center of this whirlpool is an enigmatic woman named Monroe Song, whose husband has just committed a terrorist act that has thrown her life, and that of her teenaged son, into complete disarray. Though she tries to overcome what has happened to her, Monroe will find herself bringing other people into the darkness left in her husband’s wake, and the addictions she’s using to try to help herself survive.

Monroe’s late husband Carter is a firefighter who’s tormented by the violence and loss to which he’s had to bear witness over the course of his career. It’s degrading his soul bit by bit. But a series of bombings at three downtown banks (author Ramsey is from Oklahoma City, prompting me to wonder if Timothy McVeigh’s attack there plays into her conception of this fictional event) causes him to suffer a compete mental break. Without warning he goes on a spree of violence, gunning down medical personnel and children at the clinic where he volunteers, murdering his three youngest sons, and finally killing himself. If all of the characters in Like Shards of Glass are drawn by darkness, Carter is the sole character for whom darkness has completely won.

Monroe thinks:

Many days I didn’t exist to him, and he seemed to have befriended the memories of lives which had slipped through his hands. Those friends, those memories, urged him to spend hours in the basement with his rifles. Yet still, I knew that he would always, at some point in the night, roll over and throw his arm across my waist. Sure, people talked about being with someone, and their true colors beginning to show. But what about being with someone — a goodhearted person who had been destroyed only because he had always dreamed of being a hero?

Carter’s act is almost too awful even to read about (though, thankfully, it’s mostly alluded to as a past event), so one cannot imagine how the wife and son left behind must deal with this. But there are people in this world who have had to deal with unspeakable things, and so I found myself drawn into Monroe’s life, trying to see how she could go on.

The answer: most of the time, she barely does. She and her surviving son, an 18-year-old named Karter after his father (but with a ‘K’), move in with her friend  and the friend’s family, which includes the family’s young-twenty-something son, Dominique. Dominique’s attraction to Monroe — still beautiful and magnetic despite her sadness and addictions — is immediate (“I was mortified, intimidated. But her eyes lulled me. I wanted inside her mind”). Dominique will be the one who introduces Monroe to the drug called “Sky,” which they begin chewing as pills wrapped in gum and move on to shooting up before lovemaking. (In one harrowing scene, Dominique, feeling emasculated by Monroe and helpless to assist her, jabs a full syringe of Sky directly into her neck).

Dominique is one of several characters who populate the novel and who, in turn, narrate chapters. These characters are all tightly interrelated by circumstance, circling around each other, eyeing one another, always trying to gauge where they stand. It makes for satisfying, psychologically in-depth reading. Monroe longs to escape the horror of her memories, and most of her chapters are preoccupied with a desire to find peace, to forget. Her son Karter, who must bear the terrible burden of reminding everyone of his father, yearns to have a sense of family again, even as he nurses a steady sense of disgust about his mother’s and Dominique’s relationship. He’s also tormented by demons of his own: he once brutally attacked a cousin; he has no memory of a span of two weeks following the murders, from which  he returned home with a mysterious broken hand; and, in a cruel twist of fate, he is so spectacularly, shall we say, hung that he cannot consummate his relationship with the one girl he loves, a virgin who mistakes his refusal for a rejection. (At this point I’ll admit I thought, Damn! Cut this kid some slack!)

Then there’s Dominique, shiftless, handsome, and lazy, and lacking Karter’s moral fortitude. Dominique feels guilty because he’s bedding Karter’s mom, and scared because he knows that if Karter finds out, he might kill him. He’s right to be concerned, on both counts.

———————————-

R.H. Ramsey is an impressively psychological writer, plumbing her characters’ mental states with particular attention to the double-edged swords of their nature. It’s as if each character is a mirror for the others, and then Ramsey gives each mirror one sharp crack, so that the characters reflect all the different sides of one another — longing, despair, anger, altruism, hope, rage. No one in the book is all good or all bad, not even the “terrorist” himself, Monroe’s former husband. While several of the relationships approach abuse, Ramsey examines the slippery nature of such a word: How can we understand what it is, exactly, that people do to each other? How do we judge the way people treat each other when one or both parties are hurting?

Monroe is a tricky protagonist: her self-destruction and addictions make her hard to “like,” exactly, but her pain is skillfully wrought. The novel opens with narration from Monroe’s eventual lover Dominique, so I expected that he might be the champion of the story in the end. But, as all the shades of various characters’ personalities reveal themselves throughout the book, it gradually felt to me like Karter was the story’s heart. He is the most innocent, perhaps, having no choice over the family into which he was born; while Monroe saw warning signs of her husband’s gradual degradation over the years, she was in a better position to do something about it than Karter was. And his plight of carrying his father both in looks and name (even Monroe is occasionally repulsed when she glances up and catches certain angles of her son, so much does he look like his dad) was truly poignant. Karter is the only one who does not succumb to drug addiction; he strains to keep control of the wild emotions he’s forced to endure. I hitched my allegiance to Karter near the end of the book, when he demands of his pill-addled, but-still-fighting mother:

You’re scared of a flame? We’re in hell, Mom!…You’re scared of a demon; we survived the devil — Lucifer himself! He stole your heart, your soul right out of your chest. Remember that?

Like Shards of Glass might be overwhelmingly bleak if it were not for the compassionate treatment of its characters and the notes of redemption that ring all the more true because they are so rare. I suspect that, whatever R.H. Ramsey writes next, she’s gonna take us somewhere dark, but I’ll still go along for the ride.

Ramsey, R.H. Like Shards of Glass. Inknbeans Press, 2014.

**********

Ava Easterby

“Shards of Glass is Ramsey’s most beautifully written novel to date. But don’t let the beauty of her prose fool you – this is not a happy novel full of happy characters. The word that comes to mind is “volatile.” The characters are volatile, their pasts are volatile, and the situation is volatile. These elements combine to create a roiling cesspool of emotions that leave the reader wincing as they wait for it all to boil over.
I have to admit the characters in Shards are not likable. Monroe and Dominique have a constant push-and-pull relationship that will make you want to slap them both, and Karter, Monroe’s son, stubbornly conceals his feelings about everything. But it wouldn’t be a RH Ramsey novel if you didn’t go through an array of grunts, sighs, and face-palms, and, at this point, I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

 

Barbara Goldie (formerly a reviewer with ‘The Kindle Review’)

 

R H Ramsey can certainly tell a story.  Her characters are so well drawn and I really thought Munroe and Dominique and the other characters came to life on the page.  Issues that are normally skirted around are dealt with head on but sensitively, and the storylines show that she has carried out wide ranging research before embarking on the novel. The plot lines are well written and very true to life.  The descriptions are very detailed and capture the scene vividly in the readers head.  Lines like ‘The silence was cold, creating an ice surface on every wall, giving myself, my boys, and anyone who visited, frostbite’ stay in the mind long after the story has ended.  The descriptions also create a great sense of time and place and combined with the gritty dialogue, which splits up the text nicely, present a well crafted story.

 

Best wishes

Barbara

Shards promo 4

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Like Shards of Glass by R.H. Ramsey

 

Publication Date: TBD

 

In one fell swoop, Monroe’s husband devastated her. In a shooting rampage he took several innocent lives including three of her sons. Involving herself with a 24-year-old is perhaps not her best option especially when her surviving son needs her so desperately. “Like Shards of Glass” is a tale of love, loss, betrayal and murder.

 

 shards promo 1

The author, R.H. Ramsey, gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.

 

 

Ramsey said that “Like Shards of Glass” was a short story that took on a life of its own. In reading this story, I wondered where she planned to stop. Any missing piece of this emotional and tragic tale would have been a loss. Ramsey alternates POV between Monroe, the twenty-four year old Dominique and Monroe’s surviving son, Karter. The first hand tale of each player gives us his or her perspective on his or her past and present and soul deep fears and sorrow. As usual with Ramsey’s work, the inner workings of the characters are profound and perhaps rather inevitable. “Like Shards of Glass” takes Ramsey into the thriller genre illustrating that this author clearly owns whatever she wants to write.

 

Monroe is a deeply complex character. She was trapped in a relationship with a man on the edge and when he cracked, he did it in the most devastating way possible. Monroe’s curse is that Carter left her to live. She, in a lot of ways, has given up and Domnique is her enabler in the quest of forgetting. She’s on board for alcohol, drugs and sex. Whatever makes her forget works for this character. Monroe skates the thin line between sex, drugs and danger for the rare chance to feel something. Dominque describes her as a butterfly, which is descriptive of her characters interaction in the story itself.

 

Karter is bred in a family whose daily life is violence. His father, Carter, lost mental footholds and Karter knew early on that he was losing himself. In a flashback scene, Carter humiliates his son in front ofrelatives and friends and Karter punishes those bystanders for being there when the embarrassment happens. Monroe is horrified by Carter holds her back laughing off the violence. This scene especially defines what the character becomes for the reader and what he struggles to fight. Ramsey sets a character for us that could truly go either way and in so doing sets a tense feel. This is an author who writes for her story and takes drastic risks that won’t appeal to all audiences but readers cannot deny are brilliantly reasoned and plotted.

In common with Ramsey’s other work is that this story provides character studies of its subjects. These are wholly developed characters with defined dysfunction.  None of the focal characters are good for each other and within their experiences together they either grow of refine their inability to come together as a viable support system.

 

As always, Ramsey gives us characters that we could be passing in daily life. It is not difficult to imagine Keith Morrison of Dateline giving the background of this story in his dramatic cadence and intonation. I have always been a fan of this author but the development of the plot is an uncharacteristic delight.  I love psychological thrillers and “Like Shards of Glass” is such extremes of the human experience and general engaging dysfunction that I would mark this novel at the top the genre.

 

***

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LIKE SHARDS OF GLASS RH RAMSEY (READ MAR 15, 2014) Beauty in pain is how I would briefly describe this novel. Tragedy clouds the entire story and I found myself on edge trying to figure out how all of these characters were going to cope or explode. The lead character of Monroe haunted me from her first scene and continues to haunt me long after I read the book. How do you survive the worst thing that has ever happened to you? That is what I constantly asked myself as the book and her pain was laid before us like a beautiful tapestry. So many aspects of her are shattered and although she is trying to pull them together you can easily see that the deck is stacked against her. The characters of Dominique and Karter remind me of two sides of the same coin. Both trying to prove themselves in very different ways. Both labeled by the women that influence and control them even though they are desperate to be their own men. Dominique appealed to me because even though he is strong he has a vulnerability you don’t often see in men. I gave this book 5 stars because even the satellite characters were interesting and an integral part of the plot. I was left fulfilled and sated with this tale and hopeful that if there is a continuation it will further project the mastery that the author has displayed in this first foray into these characters lives.
Author Andrea Cunningham

 

***

 

“Life runs rampant and parallel to fragile in another thoughtful read by RH Ramsey. Its a slow walk from edge of insanity and back against the wall fight for control and power. How do you pretend all is normal when you are the family of a murderer? Like Shards of Glass is essentially the story of two surviving members of a family, torn apart by the mortally destructive act of one selfish person. They must try to find love and respect for each other as the fragments of what remains, crumbles around them. Ramsey, as usual, adds so many layers to her tale, and dark tunnels to climb out, that you are constantly entertained and surprised by the weaving together of each character’s representation in the drama. A highly recommended read.”– Ey Wade

***

The scariest aspect of this book is not the glimpse of the horror that sent this woman and all in her periphery spiraling out of control, it is not the documented abuse that made her doubt herself, her sanity or her self-worth. It is the intimate look at the ever-linked travelers on the path to self-destruction, examining their links, their choices, even the cobbled moments which define that path. Three will go down that road of despair, obsession and addiction. How many will return? ~ Inknbeans Press

Download your copy >> Like Shards of Glass

or request a review copy: ari.r.james@gmail.com

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