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“Glory Over Everything” by Kathleen Grissom is a novel that explores slavery and racism in pre-Abolition America. The story opens in 1830, some 20 years after the events of the author’s New York Times best seller “The Kitchen House.”
This is a stand-alone novel, however much of the story is narrated by Jamie Pyke, a minor character in the first book. He is the son of Marshall Pyke, master of the Tall Oakes Plantation in Virginia and his slave, Belle. Eventually, Jamie escapes to Philadelphia, on the run after killing his father. There he passes for white.
He apprentices with Mr. Burton, a Philadelphia silversmith. Jamie is adopted by the Burtons and eventually inherits both the Burton shop and the family fortune and becomes Mr. James Burton. After many years he has achieved security and acknowledgement of his talent.
After passing as white in Philadelphia society, he discovers that Caroline his
married aristocratic lover is pregnant. Just as he is about to reveal his true identity,
he finds out that his beloved servant Pan has been captured and sold into slavery in the South.
Jamie became close to Pan, a 13-year-old black child in his household, because Pan reminded him of himself.
When Pan is kidnapped and taken to North Carolina as a slave, Pan’s father, Henry, to whom Jamie owes a great debt, asks for Jamie’s help. Jamie is conflicted between his duty to Caroline and their unborn child and his oath to Henry. He is forced to flee when someone who knows his past exposes him. Jamie has no choice but to go after Pan, even though he could be jeopardizing his own life style.
This novel effectively depicts the fear the slaves felt, especially Jamie, as he is aware that the brutal slave tracker, Rankin, is closing in. Pan is being held with a former Tall Oakes slave named Sukey, whose plan is to get Pan to the Underground Railroad. Before long the three of them are running through the Great Dismal Swamp, an often deadly hiding place for escaped slaves.
The title of this novel was taken from Harriet Tubman’s words when she crossed the Mason-Dixon line.
“I found I had crossed that line. I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There is such a ‘glory over everything.’ The sun came like gold through the trees and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”