Glory Bishop lives her life in pieces. At work and with her friends, she reads novels, speaks her mind, and enjoys slow dances and stolen kisses with her boyfriend, JT. But at home, Glory follows strict rules and second-guesses every step. Though she dreams of going to college and living like a normal teenage girl, her abusive mother has other ideas. When JT leaves to join the navy, Glory is left alone and heartsick. The preacher's son, Malcolm Porter, begins to shower her with lavish gifts, and her mother pushes Glory to accept his advances. Glory is torn between waiting for true love with JT or giving in to the overzealous Malcolm. When a stranger attacks Glory on the street, Malcolm steps in to rescue her, and her interest in him deepens. But the closer she gets to him, the more controlling he becomes. Glory must eventually decide whether to rely on others or to be her own savior.
POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: This story addresses the topic of domestic abuse / abusive relationships (both emotional and physical abuse).
Glory Bishop, our title character, starts out her story a pretty typical teen for the most part, her life revolving around school, church, her job at the beauty parlor, and getting in as much time with boyfriend J.T. as possible. The one major hardship she downplays is the abuse she suffers at the hands of her mother. Glory's mother excuses her own inexcusable behavior under the guise of religious fervor. In her mind, it's not abuse, it's her battling to save the soul of Glory.
Growing up in Chicago in the 1980s, Glory is a romantic at heart. She loves books and dreams of going to college, but also wouldn't mind a nice, cozy life with J.T. But plans change once J.T. announces he's enlisted in the Navy and will be away for the better part of three years. He asks her to wait for him, she agrees... but Glory is just a teen, and soon temptation of other opportunities comes knocking at her door, namely in the form of the pastor's son, Malcolm.
It's a struggle: Glory can't shake her love for J.T., whom she's had an intense bond with since elementary school. J.T. used to do his best to protect Glory from the worst of her mother's wrath, but with him gone, now there's Malcolm on the scene flattering her with attention, subtlety offering the opportunity for the same kind of protection. Then one night Glory is attacked in the streets and Malcolm is there to stop an attempted rape. Now she feels indebted to him, and maybe he uses that to his advantage. Shortly after that night, Malcolm is calling on Glory at her house, requesting dates, lavishing gifts on her and her mother. While Glory isn't immune to this new man's attentions, part of her can't help but feel things are moving a little too fast. Additionally, there's the 10 year age gap between Glory and Malcolm that at times feels powerful, other times wrong. What does a nearly thirty year old man want with an underage teen?
"I saved you from a monster and you saved me from a monster. God put us together. You don't get to question that. Glory Bishop, you are my lady. That is not a request."
It doesn't seem to bother Glory's mother though! She loves Malcolm's "godly" background as an up and coming youth minister on the fast track to having his own church one day soon. Glory's mother pushes the poor girl to pursue this relationship full-force and be obedient to every one of Malcolm's requests or demands. Glory tries... and things might have been alright... if it weren't for that darn independent streak of hers! That, and Malcolm's own behavioral shift. While he was quite the gentleman early on, the more time they spend together the more controlling he becomes. First it's a harsh word here, a painful wrist grab there. Then it's flat-out smacks across the face... and we see Glory move into the classic defensive pose of someone who starts to suspect they're in an abusive relationship but isn't ready to outwardly admit it. When others start to question mood changes in her and hard-to-hide facial bruising, she's quick to give dismissals like "he's going through a lot right now", "it was a misunderstanding", "it's not as bad as it looks."
The irony of the situation is how Malcolm starts acting like a mob boss, insisting Glory have 24 hour security detail whenever he's not available, yet he progressively becomes her biggest threat. Still, she can't shake the feeling that she's indebted to him for saving her from her attacker that night, and for all the financial help he's provided her and her mother since. It doesn't help that Glory's mother tries to sell her the idea that if a man provides well for you financially that it's your DUTY to do whatever he wants, no arguments. Eeesh, with a mom like that....
Thankfully, the one big HEALTHY adult presence in Glory's life is her boss from the beauty parlor, Herschel, who has acted as a kind of surrogate father in her life since her biological one passed. His heart-to-hearts with her really help Glory to pinpoint what she herself wants out of life, regardless of demands anyone else tries to make on her time. His wisdom also helps her see someone doing a kindness for you is just that, a kindness, something they CHOOSE to do for you... by all means, thank them, but also realize that it's not an obligation for you to hand over to them an entire lifetime of freedoms in return.
This was one consistently tough read to get through, for the sheer heartbreak around Glory's story. I mean, you have to admire her tenacity to push through all these various forms of oppression, but it's not easy to move through pages of scenes with this young teenage girl having men left and right trying to command ownership over her body and soul. And then to boot, there's this mother who seems so at ease victim-blaming her own child. In one scene, with the sight of one side of Mercy's face beaten as a result of Malcolm's temper flare, does the mother show concern? Or even rage at a man who dared to lay hands on her baby?? Nah, she comes back with a comment basically calling out Mercy for being too mouthy: "I almost took a cord to you myself." This reaction then has Mercy thinking, "My mother not only approves but thinks I deserve worse." What a crushing realization for one to have about their own parent! By that point in the story, man, I was rooting for Glory and her impromptu night of flirtations with comic book guy! After all that, she deserved someone sweet like that...and, ahem, HER OWN AGE.
With all this in mind, let me mention that this text has a fair amount of profanity within the story. Just a note for anyone who is sensitive to foul language or just prefers to avoid it in general.
King provides an impressive amount of attention to environmental detail, so we really get a solid picture of what Glory's world looks like. While I found myself wishing for the character development to go a little deeper with all our primary characters, I will say Glory Bishop --- the novel as a whole --- is an honest, realistic portrayal of an abusive relationship and the confused blend of feelings that runs through the victim's mind at that point when they're either not aware or only just starting to come to realization that that is the reality of their "love" life. We see Malcolm and the mother dish out abuses on Glory, followed by moments of sweetness and affection... classic tool of abusers to leave victims all mind-muddled. It's easy to understand why Glory struggles to decide a path in life, because the good moments have her feeling guilty about bringing attention to the bad.
While I enjoyed the story for the most part, I was disappointed with the closing scene. I felt a bit short-changed with the abruptness of it after all the emotional investment asked of the reader. I wouldn't mind a follow-up story to see where Glory eventually landed.
FTC Disclaimer: Author Deborah King kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.