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This Glittering World

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One November morning, Ben Bailey walks out of his Flagstaff, Arizona home to retrieve the paper. He finds Ricky Begay, a young Navajo man, beaten and dying in the newly fallen snow. Unable to forget the incident, especially once he meets Ricky's sister, Shadi, Ben begins to question everything, from his job as a history professor to his relationship with his fiancee, Sara. Ben decides to discover the truth about Ricky's death, in hopes of filling in the cracks in his own life. Yet the answers leave him torn between love and responsibility and between his once-certain future and the choices that could liberate him at a cost. "This Glittering World" is the book T. Greenwood's fans and critics have been waiting for - one that cements her reputation as one of today's most eloquent and impressive talents.

304 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

T. Greenwood

21 books1,698 followers
T. Greenwood is the author of fourteen novels. She has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Maryland State Arts Council. She has won four San Diego Book Awards. Five of her novels have been IndieNext picks. BODIES OF WATER was finalist for a Lambda Foundation award and KEEPING LUCY was a Target Book Club selection. Her next novel, THE STILL POINT, will be published in February 2024.

She teaches creative writing for San Diego Writer's Ink and The Writer's Center. She and her family split their time between San Diego and Vermont. She is also a photographer.

More information on T. Greenwood can be found at her websites: http://www.tgreenwood.com

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5 stars
177 (17%)
4 stars
326 (32%)
3 stars
348 (34%)
2 stars
131 (12%)
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27 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 184 reviews
Profile Image for Dianne.
567 reviews934 followers
July 30, 2016
A slightly awkward mishmash of social commentary, suspense, personal crisis, romance and melodrama. This is an easy read with some interesting plot points, imagery and characters but I became very irritated with the main character, Ben. I usually embrace unlikeable characters because I find them fascinating, but Ben wasn't fascinating - he was weak and boorish, a selfish man-child.

A lot of people seem to enjoy Greenwood's books, but I have a feeling this is not one of her best efforts. Probably a 2.5 for me.

Profile Image for Camie.
916 reviews192 followers
September 29, 2020
The metaphor of a Navajo woven rug is fitting for this story about the unraveling of Ben Bailey's life. Disillusioned with his fiancé Sara, and after finding a young Navajo man beaten and dying in the snow, he gets caught up in the drama of solving the crime especially after meeting the victim's interesting older sister Shadi.

There is a familiar theme here with the main character battling between responsibility and happiness with an added twist of what might be called misguided heroism.

An easy read, with characters who are not always very like-able as they frequently do the right thing but for the wrong reason and vice versa, which when all is told I guess makes them seem unmistakably more human.

The title The Glittering World puzzled me, but thanks to Morgan who tells me in the comments it is part of the Navajo culture as well as the book section names Red World etc. 3.5 stars
Profile Image for Carol Brill.
Author 3 books157 followers
June 10, 2016
It's been a while since I've read a book with the kind of suspense in the last 30+ pages that both made me want to read feverishly and stop reading for fear of what would happen. Skillfully drawn characters who are borderline pathetic yet incredibly sympathetic. That takes special talent.
Ben goes out to get his morning paper and finds a bloody, dead body of an Indian teen. When the local police show little interest in solving the crime, he investigates himself, starting a chain of events that threatens his job, his pregnant fiancée, Shadi the victims sister and witnesses who know what really happened the night Ricky Begay died.
Profile Image for Jake.
270 reviews10 followers
February 6, 2011
T. Greenwood never ceases to amaze me. This is the third book of hers that I have read, and, while it wasn't my favorite of hers, it still managed to astound me.

I hated Ben Bailey. The main character drove me nuts! Usually I get all mad when I can't stand the main character in a book, but then I looked at why I don't like him. He's certainly flawed: he never stands up for himself and when he does it backfires, he is caught in a loveless relationship, he's passive-aggressive, he cheats on his girlfriend, he is always a victim, he doesn't really make things happen they just sort of happen to him and around him. I was hoping some redemptive quality would pop up in there by the end, but it never happened. Then I realized I was okay with that because it makes him human. I may have disliked him as a hero of a story but he leaped out of the pages. Maybe I saw a lot of myself in him. That, my friends, is the beauty of Ms. Greenwood's writing. It is effective and hits so true to home that it is impossible not to walk away unchanged.

At first I didn't understand the different colors but then Greenwood brought in the tapestry analogy and it all made sense. I am reminded of the Robert Frost poem "Fire and Ice." Ben Bailey's world will either end in fire or ice. While he desires "ice" he may have to settle for "fire." Read it and see if that makes sense to you.

The ending surprised me. I kept waiting for Sara to find out about Ben and Shadi and confront him and tell him to take a hike. But it didn't happen. Of all the characters, I sympathized with Sara the most, but even she was easy to hate sometimes. In fact, there was not a single likable character in here, but I was not put off by that. Greenwood is a master of creating human characters that are so believable and realistic and flawed that it feels like you are reading about an old friend. And that, my friends, is why I will continually go back to read T. Greenwood.
Profile Image for Becky.
625 reviews109 followers
August 17, 2016
This is my second T. Greenwoodbook....her words paint a beautiful & descriptive story, even when the story isn't always perfect or beautiful.

Ben & Sara are a long time engaged couple, she is ready to plan the wedding & he is having cold feet.

An event happens in the early stages of the story & it takes Ben off on a mission, trying to find out how & why & who caused this event. It takes its toil on the fragile relationship with Sara & also effects other people.

The imagery is a big part of this story, the colors of Arizona, the unraveling of threads of life, the coldness of the snow & relationships & the "glittering" of what looks good from afar.....
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews258 followers
February 1, 2011
To me this is simply a beautiful piece of literature that is told through incredible characterizations. This is the first Greenwood novel that I have read, I am now a huge fan and will look for more. This novel is a tragedy that is about a dead young Navajo boy, told using Navajo imagery, colors, and beliefs. Much of this novel gains it's power from it's setting, it's bleak imagery, from the dry scorching sun, to the soaked sweat in overly hot vehicles, in contrast to the bitter, white and windy blizzards. The setting often parallels the happenings to Ben and Sara. There is too much depth and symbolism in this book for me to point out. Suffice it to say that this is a perfect novel for a college English class discussion. I loved each word in this book and will reread this one some day. Readers beware, the author treats the characters with realism and the book ends as it should, which people may not agree with. Literary lovers should not miss this superb read.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 21 books290 followers
May 12, 2011
Disclaimers out the wazoo: I went to grad school with Tammy, we both won an NEA the same year, she's appeared in Vermin on the Mount twice, we're in a writing group together, my wife and I have worked with her husband, and our daughters have play dates together.

After all that you're probably thinking I can't possibly be objective, but even if I didn't know Tammy as well as I do I wouldn't be able to be objective because the book is set in Flagstaff, Arizona, a place I know well, and its the depiction of this big village that virtually everyone in the west has driven through that makes the book an unqualified success.

I have mixed feelings about Flagstaff. After I received my degree at NAU, I accepted an offer to teach composition for a year. I'd already made up my mind to go back to LA and get on with my life, and instead I stayed. Flagstaff has an abundance of charms--for tourists--but those who live there know it's a gritty transient town with freakish weather and no soul.

That sounds harsh, and probably says more about me than it does about Flagstaff, but consider the following: Flagstaff is the third largest city in a state where no one lives; Flagstaff is a college town; as the gateway to the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff has fewer 70,000 people and over 40 hotels; approx. 100 trains roar through the town night and day; its the closest town to the Navajo Indian Reservation (at least the western half) and because alcohol is forbidden on the rez Flagstaff can feel at times like a border town; and with an altitude of 7,000 feet, it can snow pretty much anytime from November to May and averages 108 inches of snowfall and 288 days of sunshine a year.

Flagstaff is anything but typical, but in spite of its transient population and unpredictable weather, nothing ever changes. It's a town that is surrounded by National Forest, way up in the mountains in the middle of the desert. It can't grow, can't expand, can't reinvent itself. It's a liberal town in a gruesomely conservative state. Last call is at midnight. I couldn't wait to leave, but I stayed.

Flagstaff is full of people looking to get out. (I have theory that Flagstaff has so many hippies because they get suckered by the town's charms and get snowed in. When the snow melts there VW buses won't start.) This Glittering World is told through the point of view of a part-time history teacher, part-time bartender named Ben Bailey who has become deeply dissatisfied with the life he has made for himself in Flagstaff. After an uncommonly early snowfall, he discovers an Indian on the sidewalk in front of his house, beat to shit and left for dead. Deeply unsettled, Ben tries to find out what happened to the guy. It's clear from the get-go that if he persists, he's going to fuck things up. But Ben wants to fuck up his life. That's what Flagstaff does to you.

This Glittering World is nothing short of fantastic. A thoroughly disquieting read that will leave you wondering about the choices you've made and the repercussions that came after.
Profile Image for Michelle.
Author 12 books1,387 followers
February 26, 2011
The best thing about picking up a T. Greenwood book is you know it’ll be some shade of fantastic. She writes compelling characters with such a clear voice. In this, Ben walks outside one morning to find a dying Native American in front of his home. Though it’s a stranger, he feels a personal connection to the man (which only increases over time). Ben is a deeply flawed character, but also sympathetic, which is something I think the author does better than most. From the first page, I was pulled into this story and at several points my heart was heavy and I was close to tears. This book is a stunning look not only into Ben’s relationship with this stranger but also his fiancé and others around him. Also, I loved the inclusion of Navajo lore, past and present. The sense of place (Flagstaff and some Phoenix) is palpable. Many people will likely take issue with the ending. I liked it because it was 100% truthful and real. It was the harder ending to write but the best one in my opinion. Overall, this story is gripping and flawlessly executed.
Profile Image for Amy Hatvany.
Author 12 books985 followers
January 4, 2011
One of the best books I've read all year. Ms. Greenwood expertly guides you through a tragic but gorgeously-crafted story filled with moral ambiguity, lust, rage, pain, and passion. Her language is fundamentally poetic, her imagery is crisp. My heart ached for all the characters involved and I simply could not put it down until I finished it. The ending is the perfect apex to the plot, and while it may bother some readers, Ms. Greenwood shows her characters the respect of staying true to them and the experiences they lived through. This novel would be perfect for bookclub discussions.

I am a huge fan of this author, and I have to say, it is probably my favorite of hers so far. She just gets better and better. Don't miss it.

Profile Image for Melinda Lang.
83 reviews3 followers
August 11, 2014
While on vacation, I did something I never do which is stop a book midway through to start another. But I am so glad I did. Like other T. Greenwood novels, I couldn't stop reading This Glittering World. I loved the faulted, imperfect character Ben and despite some of his actions, I couldn't help but root for him even in the end. Greenwood's writing tends to suck me in and I am transported to whatever setting she depicts...heavy snow, cold, blinding sunshine, hot Phoenix pavement, and this book is no exception.

A very important part of this novel really hit home and touched my heart - just another VERY relatable book from one of my favorite novelists.
Profile Image for Maryellen Woodside.
1,179 reviews1 follower
January 18, 2011
This was a disappointing read. I usually like Greenwood's novels, but I found the motivations of the main character to be unrealistic. I kept reading, hoping it would get better. I really don't know why I bothered to finish.
Profile Image for Fredsky.
215 reviews3 followers
March 4, 2011
I didn't like this book, but it was such a good read I finished it anyhow. The hero is a cowardly liar and a cheat. His girlfriend is still with him after 6 years and she still doesn't have a wedding date. If she was ever likable, she isn't any more. She's demanding, controlling, and sneaky. The sister of the dead man on their lawn seems like a paper doll American Indian, complete with weaving talent and an Airstream. And so on. My spoiler here is about the ending. The hero, having messed up everything and everyone who trusted him, has learned nothing about himself. And his girlfriend/fiancee, as well as her parents, seem to believe he is capable of total change. Or why else would they want him to marry her? I think it's ridiculous that her parents would entrust their princess to him after his sleazy behavior, and keeping him working as head of a flagship high-echelon car dealership as well. So this story has everyone losing in the end. That may be realistic, even deserved given all their personalities. But I wanted someone, PLEASE! to at least protest against all these people willingly gluing themselves together. Maybe there will be a sequel. I can see I really enjoy disliking this book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Shomeret.
1,062 reviews208 followers
November 22, 2020
What I found forgivable in Tomato Red isn't forgivable in this book. Those were teenagers. An adult like protagonist Ben Bailey should have better judgment. Yet at the same time, he could be a very sympathetic character. And then I'd want to smack some sense into him.

I was expecting more Navajo cultural content, but that wasn't the focus of the book. It focused on a terrible hate crime and the reasons why it was covered up.

What I did like very much was the book's sense of place. The author wrote very well about the locations in Arizona where the book's events occurred.
Profile Image for Carole.
324 reviews38 followers
February 2, 2015
Maybe 3.5 stars. While I love T. Greenwood books, this was a bit long in the middle and dragged for me. It picked up towards the end, but I did not like the main character, Ben, and the way he strung along the 2 ladies in his life.
Profile Image for Annie.
7 reviews
January 9, 2013
It didn't surprise me at all, but I liked. It's a smart and well written book, and deserves the four stars.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
32 reviews
March 6, 2013

This is the second book I've read by this author. I really enjoy her writing style. She keeps you captivated and in tune with the characters from the beginning.
Profile Image for Sabra.
964 reviews
November 15, 2019
The writing was beautiful, but I just hated the story. The entire time, I just wanted to smack the hell out of Ben and tell him to grow the eff up
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
1,939 reviews10 followers
February 9, 2014
My first didn't finish of the year. I think I got to page 50 and knew this book was going to be depressing until some sort of uplifting end or depressing and then more depressing. The main character, all I know is his last name which is Bailey, is living with his fiancee. He proposed to her two years ago and has since regretted the decision and instead of ending the relationship he is seeing how far he can go before she snaps. He lies to her about ridiculous things like where he went for lunch. So one morning he wakes up to find that it snowed the night before. He loves snow so he's happy. He decides to take a chance that the paper arrived early and goes to the sidewalk where he finds a young Native American badly beaten and underdressed for the cold. He recognizes the boy as a regular in the bar where he bartends. The boy is there to find people to play pool with and he only drinks cokes. The police write his death off as another drunk Indian. Bailey decides to go to his funeral and he meets the boy's sister. This is about where I stopped reading. I'm pretty sure Bailey is going to get involved with the sister. The boy's death isn't the only death in the book so far. Bailey's sister was hit by a car when they were walking home from school together.

I don't need to read this kind of thing. The writing is good - the story is told smoothly with a light hand. The descriptions are just enough so you get a sense of what is going on. But the story is heading towards downerville and the main character is a passive aggressive putz.
Profile Image for Almira.
576 reviews2 followers
July 24, 2017
Set in Flagstaff, Arizona - the day after Halloween, cold and snowy, Ben Bailey goes outside to get the morning newspaper, and discovers a young Navajo man badly beaten and dying in the snow in his front yard. Ricky Begay's, a young man known to Ben at the local bar where Ben works, and Ricky plays pool, death is pretty much unremarkable to the local police - they decide it is just another case of a "drunken" Indian - pretty much case closed! But Ben is not so sure, and he has decided to become an investigator - which leads him to Ben's sister, Shandi a local artist.

Did I mention that Ben is also a part time history professor at the local college? When he has a "run-in" with one of his students (father is a Big Wig in Arizona politics) Ben loses his job. Ben is also engaged to Sara, father is a wealthy man who owns various car/truck dealerships in Phoenix, who just happens to be friends with the Big Wig - this is going down the path of no good for everyone.

There were times during this book that I just wanted to put it down and forget about Sara, and even Ben - but I finished it.
Profile Image for Elaine Oliveira.
Author 15 books3 followers
November 10, 2010
This is a story of personal evolvement, a journey of dicovery about oneself. But not an easy journey.

The narrative is gripping, the storytelling is compelling. Ironically enough, the starting point of Ben's journey was a hate crime agaisnt an indian: I related to it, because something like that happened in Brazil in 1997, and the criminal minds, both on the book and real life, share striking resemblances.

I thought the ending was very realistic, but not very satisfying. I mean... Ben does learn a few things, goes throught some serious shit, but doesn't find any closure for himself. He keeps going on, just living and breathing and trying to make up for his allegedly sins so that other people will be happy. It feels as though it was all in vain.

If I were slightly more into tragedies and dramas, I might have liked it more.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Gaynel.
61 reviews3 followers
March 12, 2011
This isn't my usual type of read - don't care to sit there and watch some damaged dummy screw up his life beyond repair.

It was good enough - well-written, sympathetic. The characters were well-defined - after a while I should say. Sara didn't really come alive for me until mid-way through the book. I'm not sure Shadi ever did. But the story was about Ben and his character did work from the start.

I do believe the author relied a bit heavily on over-used cliches even though they are my favorite ones - frat boys bad, rich powerful men corrupt, poor hippies good, native americans wise and noble.

But the chapters were short making the whole thing a fast, absorbing read. I don't know if I'll read anymore by this author. Too depressing.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
9 reviews
May 21, 2012
The quality of the writing is at least 4 or 5 stars but I could not stand the characters....is it fair to punish the writer for characters that aren't lovable? I enjoyed reading the book and did not want to put it down. However, I kept waiting for the character to transform and he didn't. Some would argue that his decision in the end was transformation. I certainly don't think so.
Profile Image for Megan.
133 reviews3 followers
October 31, 2013
I did not like this book - maybe the fact that I feel so strongly about it means it was well done. But I did not enjoy the dark manner of the story and the quick fix ending. Errr It actually angered me!
84 reviews
January 22, 2011
This was a good book. I was not particuarly fond of the main character (his actions, his choices) so it made it hard to read, but overall, a good story.
Profile Image for Janette Gradyan.
11 reviews2 followers
March 29, 2013
Loved the story line, especially loved reviewing the book with the author herself. Such insight into why things occurred as they did.
Profile Image for Sandi.
1,646 reviews4 followers
August 29, 2016
A short story about things going wrong because of a beating and the story that's wrapped up in and around Ben and Sara.and their life
Displaying 1 - 30 of 184 reviews

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