In one summer, everything will change. But for these three strong Southern women, the roots they’ve planted on Glory Road will give life to the adventures waiting just around the curve. Nearly a decade after her husband’s affair drove her back home to South Alabama, Jessie McBride has the stable life she wants—operating her garden shop, Twig, next door to her house on Glory Road, and keeping up with her teenage daughter and spunky mother. But the unexpected arrival of two men makes Jessie question whether she’s really happy with the status quo. When handsome, wealthy businessman Sumner Tate asks her to arrange flowers for his daughter’s lavish wedding, Jessie finds herself drawn to his continued attention. Then Ben Bradley, her lingering what-could-have-been from high school, moves back to the red dirt road, and she feels her heart pulled in directions she never expected. Meanwhile, Jessie’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Evan, is approaching the start of high school and navigating a new world of emotions—particularly as they relate to the cute new guy who’s moved in just down the road. At the same time, Jessie’s mother, Gus, is suffering increasingly frequent memory lapses and faces a frightening, uncertain future. The only thing certain is change—even in a place as steady as Perry, Alabama, on a street as old as Glory Road.
For the past decade, Jessie McBride has been operating Twig, a garden shop next to her home on Glory Road in the small town of Perry, South Alabama. Having moved back to her hometown to rebuild her life after a failed marriage, all these years later Jessie suddenly finds herself juggling two potential love matches: Ben Bradley, that "one that got away" love from high school, who also recently moved back to town, and suave, successful, and wildly rich golf course engineer Sumner Tate... who stumbles into Jessie's shop when his grumbly belly directs him towards the sign advertising "free pie with purchase" at her shop. Impressed with her horticulture skills, Sumner wants to hire Jessie to do the flower arrangements for his daughter's upcoming nuptials.
While Jessie works out which way to take her heart, her daughter, Evan, is not only stepping into her first year of high school but also feeling her way through her first teenage crush... which just happens to be directed at Ben Bradley's son, just a few years older than Evan. Also in the mix is Jessie's mother, Gus (Augusta), who is sensing that she might be starting the early stages of dementia that previously took her own mother and grandmother. With all of these ladies, it's anyone's guess what the future will hold!
This is a slow-burn style story, so if you're one for wild action and fast plot, you may need to sit this one out. Presented in chapters with rotating POVs between Jessie, Evan, and Gus, Glory Road is all about relationships --- whether it be the familial, friendship, or romantic-based variety --- all wrapped up in the cozy Southern setting of summer thunderstorms, porch swings, peach cobbler, and long night talks outside. Author Lauren Denton also makes the cute choice to start each chapter with a little snippet from various gardening manuals. The gardening tips are presented in a philosophical way, meant to subtly foreshadow the events of that chapter. Just out of curiosity, I looked up some of the titles to see if they were from actual manuals, but having no hits on those titles, I can only assume the manual excerpts were purely a figment of Denton's imagination --- I'm impressed! The tone sounded legit!
The story itself sometimes went on a little long for me. It often felt like I was reading the same conversations multiple times over, just worded differently.
The romance elements were also a little flat. I didn't find myself all that invested in the outcome of Jessie's love life either way. Sweet guys in general, but it was pretty clear where this story was headed from the very beginning, so the journey in that regard almost felt pointless. And Sumner got on my nerves a little bit. Sure, he was outwardly charming, but I didn't love how he seemed to like to lowkey flex his wealth around Jessie. The way he spoke to her also felt a little like he saw her as a novelty in a way, almost like he was getting a kick out of "slumming" it with someone beneath his tax bracket. That said, I loved seeing the growing relationship between Harvis and Gus --- now THAT got my heartstrings!
"I think you marry the one who, when everything else is stripped away --- money, job, arguments, disagreements, --- he's still the one you'd want to sit on the porch and .... just... do nothing. Or do anything. Pick the one who matters more than all the stuff of life."
Be ready to be at least a little frustrated with the story, as it ends up being one of those ones where a good majority of the problems could have been easily avoided if the main characters would've just been brave enough to say what they mean early on, and be clear about what they want. On one hand, it's a lesson in how fear can sometimes paralyze a person in the midst of their life path... but in the case of Jessie and Ben, they both end up having children with other people, and while the relationships don't work out, they both admit the choices they made were worth it to end up with their children. So, in a way, the story poses the question, is it really a life mistake just because the end result got messy, or merely an instance of unintentionally taking the long way 'round to where you were meant to be anyway?
For interested book groups, this paperback edition does include a discussion question guide at the back.
FTC DISCLAIMER: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.