In ‘Blue Glass’, writer Sandra Tyler reframes parenthood as a problem of holding on and letting go.
Through the eyes of a young girl, the novel tells the tale of three generations of women struggling to co-exist without losing themselves or each other. No villainous mothers here, thank god. Or cliched sisters. Tyler is far too subtle a writer for that. But there is the very recognisable benign-but-controlling grandmother who heads the family. There is Holly, the eternal runaway, and Marion, our narrator’s mother, who is the designated ‘good girl’ of the family. Left to hold the family fort at all and any cost to her own fragile and emerging independence (only to be told years later, and by Holly, that she “never wanted anything”).
Of course the two sisters will parent their own daughters differently. Marion holds on to her growing girl so hard and so fearfully that the child can do nothing but push away in a manner which is almost catastrophic for them both. Marion’s losses accumulate and her daughter’s guilt nearly stretches her to breaking point. Holly takes a different path, shoving her own two small daughters so roughly towards independence that one becomes lonely and alienated. Anchor-less. The other, flailing without boundaries in a fast moving world, retreats into dependence. Sabotages herself painfully, whilst telling her free spirited mother, with gentle ambiguity, “You have no idea how to let go.”
Sandra Tyler is a poetic writer. One of those whose work can linger on in the mind. Her characters are flawed and human, knowable. Not so much fictional neighbours as family, drawn with clear-eyed compassion. I found ‘Blue Glass’ heartbreaking, compelling, and most essential reading.
‘Blue Glass’ is a New York Times Notable Book.