Read Playing with Matches by Carolyn Wall Online


When I felt truly lost—which was most of the time—I went out to the narrow lot and sat down in the weeds. From there I could observe both houses. After all, I had two eyes, didn’t I? Two nostrils, two arms, two knobby knees. The trouble was, I had only one heart. Growing up in False River, Mississippi, Clea Shine learned early that a small town is no place for big secretsWhen I felt truly lost—which was most of the time—I went out to the narrow lot and sat down in the weeds. From there I could observe both houses. After all, I had two eyes, didn’t I? Two nostrils, two arms, two knobby knees. The trouble was, I had only one heart.Growing up in False River, Mississippi, Clea Shine learned early that a small town is no place for big secrets. Having fled years ago in the wake of a tragedy and now settled with a family of her own, she faces a turning point in her marriage and seeks refuge in the one place she vowed never to return. Clea’s homecoming is bittersweet. Reunited with Jerusha Lovemore, the kindly neighbor who raised her, Clea gains a sense of love and comfort, but still cannot escape the ghosts of her past: the abandonment by her disreputable mother, her constant search for belonging, the truth behind that fateful night from long ago. Once outspoken and impulsive, Clea now seeks only redemption and peace of mind. And as a hurricane threatens to hit False River, everything she has tried to forget may finally be exposed once and for all.  A mesmerizing and poignant work by a master of the Soutern novel, Playing with Matches is a stunning tale of guilt, forgiveness, and the enduring bonds of family....

Title : Playing with Matches
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780345525697
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Playing with Matches Reviews

  • Julie Christine
    2019-04-15 03:04

    I have a hard time making sense of this novel. I read it in its entirety, which says something about the quality of the writing, for I am quick to abandon stories that don’t grab me within the opening chapters. Carolyn Wall enchanted me with her debut Sweeping Up Glass and I was willing to go the distance with this sophomore effort. But I am not willing to suspend disbelief, which she asked of this reader time and again in Playing With Matches. Reading this was like being tripped up by unseen obstacles on a path; then, while you are looking over your shoulder to figure out what caused you to stumble, you run into a tree. Best I can tell, Wall is trying to conjure the great Southern Gothic tradition, in which a town in the Deep South becomes the setting for epically wretched lives. At a certain point, the tragedies that beset False River, Mississippi - its citizens a tribe of Jobs whom God has earmarked for especial torture - become pert near comical. At the center of this multiplicity of tragedies is Clea Shine, the daughter of the town whore who services the guards and recently-paroled convicts from the prison across the field, as well as many of its upstanding citizens. She births Clea on the kitchen table so as not to mess up her sheets, then drops the baby girl off at the neighbor’s – a kindly Aunt Jemima figure, Jerusha Lovemore (known as Auntie). It took me a wee while to figure out that Clea is white. I think it took Clea a wee while to figure this out, as well. She has a Come to Jesus I’m White moment in the first grade while swatting flies in the town’s one-room schoolhouse. Jarring me early on is the era in which Sweeping Up Glass is set. I spent the first several chapters - based on the cultural references and descriptions of the characters and settings – assuming we were in the Mississippi of the late 50s or early 60s. Then Auntie tells the hideous and desperately sad story of a chicken circus, when she became aware of and involved in the civil rights movement. She was a young woman at the time and made reference to it being the “the ‘60s and ‘70s.” At the point she tells her story to a young Clea, Auntie must be in her 40s. So the story is set sometime in the mid-late 80s? 100 percent what the? for this reader. Clea’s formative years are the best part of this book. She is an effortlessly likeable girl – smart, lonely, occasionally cruel only because she is so lost and sad. But she has a strong, clean heart. Even the ancillary characters hold great potential: Finn, the boy who lives in a tree; Cunny Gholar, the loving uncle; nutty Aunt Shookie and pathetic Bitsy. Straining my patience are the storylines of heroin-addicted, Bible-thumping Millicent Poole and the straight-from-Quentin-Tarantino-film Oaty brothers, who keep a boy tied up underneath their house, yet face no consequences after the boy is set free. (By Clea, natch). This is the sort of logic that makes the second half of the book hard to take. Clea flees False River as a teen after a hazy incident with a match. She takes to the streets, becomes a cutter, is saved by nuns, spends time in Belize feeding the homeless, remembers nothing of but somehow excels at University and writes a well-received book based on her past. All this time, she is certain she is a murder suspect back in False River and stays clear of the South. Some twenty years later she returns to False River, with her two adopted children. She needs a place to run and hide from her failing marriage. So she heads to the one place where she fears being recognized. Sigh. She waits for the authorities to come and lock her up in the prison she can see across the field. Instead, she ends up teaching writing at the prison. Her philandering husband arrives and on his heels is the Storm of the Century. Clea, along with a ragtag collection of loved ones from her past and present, clings to the few walls that remain of her childhood home - the house that is now an island in the False River. All very symbolic. And exhausting. But then it’s over. And Clea moves to Belize. Wouldn’t you?

  • Kayla Joy
    2019-04-25 01:18

    The story seems simple at first. A woman recounting her difficult childhood. She talks about her mother, the women who raised her, and how she lived a confused life. Too smart, too stubborn, and too white.After awhile, the story switches to this woman as an adult. She seems to be fleeing her past. The reason is more complicated than you'd think.I guess what I liked most about this novel was that it had an uncomfortably realistic quality. Most of the time, I felt as if I were peering in these womens' kitchen window. Seeing things I wasn't supposed to see. Knowing things I was never meant to know. There were a few moments when I'd stop and think, "What does this have to do with anything? Why is this included in the novel at all?" But, everything wraps up in the end in such an amazing way.

  • LB
    2019-04-04 06:34

    This was a very uneven book. I loved all of the characters - smart talking Clea Shine, whose life begins with tragedy, her Auntie and all the relatives surrounding her, even the mystery children Wheezer and Finn. The setting is the rural South, complete with fields, a prison, a Bingo hall, and a river. What I didn't like was the "mystery" of the book. It is written one way, and what happens that night carries through the rest of Clea's life. When the book flashes forward to her as an adult and she is STILL worried over it, I was surprised. Later on, a character gives a different account and yet even later on there is another account. So it is unclear exactly what happened, and that really makes to book fall apart.However, the characters really do draw you into their world. I liked being able to see what happened to them and to have some issues resolved. But because of the mystery... this book only gets 3 stars.

  • Kwoomac
    2019-04-09 23:18

    There was a lack of focus in this book hat was really frustrating. Back stories were hinted at but never really developed. Characters were one-dimensional. I didn't connect with any of them.It really felt like the first draft of a story to me. I wanted more depth. This book gets a lot of high ratings, so maybe it's just me.

  • Sheri
    2019-04-14 05:06

    This is written in the same vein as Winter Birds (Jim Grimsley) or Salvage the Bones (Jesmyn Ward); it is a look at the heartbreaks of poverty in southern America.I enjoyed Playing with Matches, the tone was good and there were some great comments on different levels of poverty and reverse racism. However, the religious overtones just put me off. The first half of this novel is supposed to be the novel that Clea writes as an adult; the second half is her current day life and the effects of said novel on this life. I found the "novel" part to be very strong, but the grown up "real" part to be too overtly religious. It was also interesting to see Wall use this mechanism to comment on the power of the written word: "Words were tricky things: Nothing else had the power to put a man down. Nothing could pick him up so quickly."As a kid growing up, Clea is never sure why she is an outcast. Is it because Auntie is relatively well off (defined as not needing foodstamps, but still wearing hand me down clothes) or because her mother is the town prostitute or because she is one of the few white folks in the parish? Ultimately, Shookie declares it to be race: "'White girl, you never gonna hear the whole of it', she says. White girl, there it is, poured out of her mouth. I think, After all these years."Ultimately, I was disappointed that Wall felt she had to wrap everything up with a disney-fied (of sorts) ending. Reconciliation with Thomas is on the horizon; Clea has come to grips with her past (she will not be arrested and she has made friends with the enemies from childhood); she is going to rebuilt a house on her mama's land; it was all just too nicely wrapped up for my taste. I was also annoyed that all of the older women with whom Clea had disagreed as a child turned out to be spurned lovers of inmates. It was just too tidy for a novel that was supposed to be (ultimately) about the messiness and heartache of human relationships.Overall it was a compelling book and had some great commentary on human interaction, race, and poverty.

  • Linda
    2019-04-05 05:27

    Playing with Matches by Carolyn Wall is a book that I was pleased to receive from LibraryThing as a book for early review. Clea Shine is the main character in this story. She is a young while girl who is born of a mother who would not and some would say, could not care for her and thus she is given up to a neighboring black woman who raises her. This story takes the reader through a portion of her life. The extremes of lives filled with poverty, neglect, sadness and despair are told in this short novel. I did not find the writing to be excellent, but the story was compelling and kept me hooked. From the explorations of childhood, to the failings and fears of the characters, you are brought into the lives of these individuals and their own personal truths. Finding a purpose in life and moving beyond self was a sub theme in this story retold in many instances. There were many small stories that were not completely developed including the horrors of an extreme storm and its wrath, the destruction of lies and fears in a persons development and the importance of family, friends and love to healthy lives is seen when it is present and when it is absent in the lives of the characters. I found the characters to be believable for the most part and was drawn into wanting to know more about them and their lives. My criticism would come in the fact that the story could have been more deeply developed. On a positive note, somewhat like “The Glass Castle” and “The Language of Flowers,” I wanted the story to continue because I felt connected to the characters. I really appreciated both of those books and would recommend this book as a story which would be appreciated by similar readers. I would give a rating of 3.5 plus so will mark it as a 4. Thank you for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  • Lisa
    2019-04-15 03:10

    I'm a reader who loves good characters, and Carolyn Wall has created a charming set in this book. It was terrific reading a grown-up book. This was my first of 2013. The story itself is painful and filled with the misery of life that comes too often to many, but the story came alive with those characters. I know there are people like this living in the South, along bayous and rivers.The prose was tough and biting, but at the same time captivating and lyrical. One particularly brilliant bit describes Clea June's childhood friend and her Siamese Twin sister with such eloquence that you simply must read those words aloud. Then, again when her sort-of cousin Bitsy confesses her sins to the whole church; well, there is another scene that just begs to be acted out. I could see that movie rolling so clearly!This book like many others captures a time and culture that I have familiarity with, but luckily not too close a life experience of myself. I'll admit the first half of the book was more fun to read, but the 2nd half was deeply moving. Who doesn't love a good redemption story? You'll find that in this book.PS: Carolyn Wall, I hope you sell the movie right to this book. It will play out just as well as "Fried Green Tomatoes", "Steel Magnolias" or "Where the Heart Is."

  • MissSusie
    2019-04-11 05:07

    This book started out good really grabbed me with the story of the little girl Clea Shine, then switched so abruptly and without warning to a grown-up Clea and what happened to her with this back and forth in time which was confusing as I felt it wasn’t really well done, then the book got preachy and the ending was just, well, unsatisfying.I liked the characters in this story and I liked the book, I just didn’t love it. I loved Jerusha & Uncle Cunny they were my favorite characters and their storyline was my favorite. Clea Shine had a tough life that I believe she at times made harder than it needed to be. I understand she wanted her mother’s love and that seeing the things she saw at such a young age was very wrong, however she had love from the people that took her in and it seems it took her a very long time to appreciate that.This has been a hard review to write because as a whole I liked it but parts of it felt, forced? Out of place? Preachy?...I just can’t put my finger or brain on the right word.This is a book I think you just have to read and decide for yourself, I like little Clea Shine but Clea Ryder annoyed me.3 StarsI received this book via Librarything Early Review program

  • Jonna
    2019-04-21 00:31

    Clea Shine's life is not pretty, or clean. She messes up at every turn, from childhood on, and carries guilt that she cannot let go of. Growing up in a family that isn't truly hers, in a house next door to The Farm (a men's prison), Clea is awkward, confused and smart. The novel rambled a bit, to a point where I was not sure if I should continue or not. I'd arrive at the end of a chapter, having a huge event just happened (the discovery of a child living trapped beneath a neighbors house, for example), and the next chapter would just go on, as if the previous one had never happened. I was confused. Kept reading, in hopes that everything would tie together. Of course, it did, but not in the pretty package some books give us. As well, I was often not sure what time period the book was supposed to be set in; the way the child Clea speaks about her surroundings, it seems to be the South in the mid-1900's, or even earlier. Yet we later discover that Clea was born sometime in the 1970's. This was odd, yet it worked. In the end, I enjoyed this book a great deal.

  • Diane S ☔
    2019-04-22 07:11

    Clea Shine is an amazing character. The writing in this novel is so very real, almost uncomfortably so, and raw. Yet it is a true rendering of what makes a family, what to be home really means and of friendship and love. There were humorous parts and heart breaking moments and I found this book and Clea to be wonderful. As children we see things that we don't understand and sometimes it is many years later before we are able to look back on these things and make sense of them. This is what happens to Clea and the ending was for me as good as the beginning. Reminded me a little of the writing of Jesmyn Ward and Bonnie Jo Campbell. Have not read this author's previous book but I will now.

  • Maureen
    2019-03-28 06:15

    This book was beautifully developed. The characters were finely drawn and three-dimensional. The sense of time and place were very realistic and it was extremely easy to get caught up in this story. Definitely recommend.

  • Lauren Barth
    2019-04-19 23:17

    I'm still on the fence about this book. The real story doesn't start until about half way through. The first half of the novel explains Clea Shine's childhood in the old Southern days, and then out of nowhere, it jumps into the present. There were a few interesting parts to read about her past and present, but a lot of the time, I just barely had the motivation to finish the book. At first, I pretty much kept reading to see how long it took for the actual story to kick in, but then when it did, I was like, "well, I'm already half way through so it would be pointless to put it down." I wasn't crazy about the type of language it was written in, however, I did appreciate that it revolved a lot around issues of race and poverty, which we are facing strong today. I will say I'm glad I kept going because the second half was a little better than the first half.

  • Rawles
    2019-04-17 00:09

    Playing with Matches is a great example of good Southern Literature. Not great southern literature, but very good. Wall gets the voice of growing up poor, different, and feeling abandoned in rural Mississippi. There is a lot of symbolism here, but it does take a while for the title to catch up to the story. I really enjoyed the first half of the book describing Clea's childhood; the second part of the book when she is grown and facing her demons by coming back home in a time of great need is a bit confusing at first, but well worth the effort. Clea is born of a single, loose woman who promptly turns her baby over to her neighbor, Jerusha, a stern black woman who disapproves of Clea's mom but raises this white baby all the same. Clea's family becomes blended with Jerusha's sister, Miss Sookie and Sookie's daughter Bitsy, and of course kind "Uncle" Cunny and her best friend, Claudie from down the road. Yet she still yearns for her mother's acknowledgement. Some things from her unusual childhood and the issues with her mother are never really resolved, but that's life, isn't it?? The characters here are fully fleshed and so real I think I might have met some of them, y'all! There are several subplots here, and the best one concerns crazy, cursing (as in I curse you!) Miz Millicent and how her backstory suddenly comes out and makes such sense to Clea. Written in sometimes a dreamlike state, this novel is reminiscent of Wiley Cash and is a great addition to a shelf of southern stories. Thank you to my friend Karen T for lending me this book; I shall indeed pass it on!!! See this and other reviews on my blog,

  • Rachel Click
    2019-04-03 03:32

    I almost gave up on finishing this book, but I'm glad I didn't because I found the second half of the book to be much better than the first half. I felt like this book was oddly disjointed - almost like paragraphs were missing and thoughts weren't finished. I had a hard time following the story line, because I would be distracted by a scene not finished. It felt incomplete. Also, the way the story was told was just odd. I thought the book was set in the 20s or 30s, and you figure out later it was likely around the 80s. I found this odd, and another way that made it feel like the book wasn't complete.

  • Deborah Robb
    2019-04-10 05:29

    This is the story of Clea Shine who grew up in False River, Mississippi. Abandoned by her mother at birth, she was raised by a neighbor, Jerusha Lovemore. After her mother dies, Clea leaves False River only to return with her own two children when her marriage falls apart. With a hurricane headed towards False River, everything that Clea ran from may finally be exposed. The writer did such a good job with the characters in this book. I finished this book feeling like I knew Clea, Jerusha and all the others. Really enjoyed reading it.

  • Kelley
    2019-04-19 06:10

    I would use 4.5 stars for this. Some of it was a little choppy and there were things I didn't understand. I couldn't be sure if it was the writing or if it was a cultural thing that I didn't get. I also couldn't figure out for the longest time WHEN the book was set. I still don't really know, but was able to figure out that it was more like the 90s or 2000s. This was my first book by this author. I would read another.

  • Cassandra Healey
    2019-04-12 07:27

    Clea had a sad, prostitute mom who gave her to a neighbor to raise moments after she was born & therefore a difficult childhood. She was raised by a wonderful & nurturing neighbor. Clea was a confused & self-centered child, and grew into a confused adult. The writing was very descriptive & I felt I could really see the scenes. I gave this a 3 because I didn't feel there was much resolution or really even much personal growth of the main characters. There was a lot of missing info.

  • Annette
    2019-04-27 06:07

    PLAYING WITH MATCHES: kept me up half the night to finish.... the story of an unwanted child who grows up down the road from the woman who gave her away. Written in two parts, childhood and adult, with all the intermingled doubts, fears and misunderstandings that go together. I couldn’t put it down.

  • Cheryl
    2019-04-09 04:25

    My rating for Playing With Matches is not based on the writing (which is good), or the characterizations (which are equally good) but just on the overall mood (for lack of a better word) of the book. This is NOT feel good sort of story. There's an abundance of unhappy people and stark, unpleasant events. It's realistic, but more than a bit depressing.

  • Gayle Pace
    2019-04-20 07:04

    PLAYING WITH MATCHESby Caroline Wall OVERVIEW: (from Goodreads)When I felt truly lost—which was most of the time—I went out to the narrow lot and sat down in the weeds. From there I could observe both houses. After all, I had two eyes, didn’t I? Two nostrils, two arms, two knobby knees. The trouble was, I had only one heart.Growing up in False River, Mississippi, Clea Shine learned early that a small town is no place for big secrets. Having fled years ago in the wake of a tragedy and now settled with a family of her own, she faces a turning point in her marriage and seeks refuge in the one place she vowed never to return.Clea’s homecoming is bittersweet. Reunited with Jerusha Lovemore, the kindly neighbor who raised her, Clea gains a sense of love and comfort, but still cannot escape the ghosts of her past: the abandonment by her disreputable mother, her constant search for belonging, the truth behind that fateful night from long ago. Once outspoken and impulsive, Clea now seeks only redemption and peace of mind. And as a hurricane threatens to hit False River, everything she has tried to forget may finally be exposed once and for all.A mesmerizing and poignant work by a master of the Southern novel, Playing with Matches is a stunning tale of guilt, forgiveness, and the enduring bonds of family.About Carolyn WallCarolyn Wall is the author of the novel Sweeping Up Glass (Poisoned Pen Press; available in bookstores August, 2008). Her short stories, articles and photographs have appeared in over 100 publications. For many years she worked as Senior Staff Writer for Persimmon Hill, the award-winning publication of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and was chief writer for the museum’s children’s magazine. For six years she served as Fiction Editor and columnist for ByLine magazine.A full-time freelance writer and lecturer on university campuses and in conference centers around the country, Wall conducts intense workshops in Fiction, Short Story and Feature Writing, Journaling, and Writing for Children. She is perhaps best known for her six-week classes: "How To Write What You Feel", and for motivating writers everywhere.As an Artist-in-Residence for the Oklahoma Arts Council, she has taught creative writing to 4,000 children in her home state and now runs a freelance editorial service. Through her company, The Write Page, she has established a prison-writer mentoring program, working with incarcerated men and women in Alabama, Kansas, Michigan and Texas.In 1995, she wrote for and edited the book Braced Against The Wind, the only literary history of the bombing of Oklahoma City. In the fall of 1998, she wrote, produced and recorded The Journaling Tapes: Writing From The Heart, a six-week’ course in daily journaling. She has done voice-over work for radio and television.The Department of the Interior and Wyoming's Bearlodge Writers presented her with a writing residency at Devils Tower, Wyoming in 1998. The recipient of regional and national honors, she is the only writer to have the distinction of receiving the regional Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc.'s coveted crème-de-la-crème award twice. She lives in Oklahoma City and has completed her second novel, The Coffin Maker, available soon, also through Poisoned Pen Press.REVIEW:I absolutely loved this book. Ms. Wall Gives us a story that we can actually feel like we are living. With eachpage, we can see and feel the characters emotions and actions. The first part off the book was rather easy to read, but the second half makes us actually think about what these characters have gone through to get to where they are at the end. I'm sure most everyone can relate to at least a small portion of the book if not most of it. The characters brought out as real people with real emotions, problems, hurts,flaws and for some, true honesty.I would truly recommend this book to everyone. Parents might want to read first and then decide if it is appropriate for their child. It does have some scenes that are explicit and some words are a little rough. Those things just go with the story. You can't glorify some of the things that happened in this book.. But then again, you can't glorify some of real life. With all that Clea went through growing up, it's amazing she turned out to be the woman she was. I contribute it to a woman who loved her as though she was her own. very so often it's good for us to read books like this. It helps to bring us down to earth. That all is not rose petals and kindness. A lot of time, we go around with those rose colored glasses on and don't bother to reflect on what life is like for others. We often choose to ignore and go about our merry way. If Auntie had chose to do that, where would Clea been?I received this complimentary copy of PLAYING WITH MATCHES from the author, Caroline Wall for this unbiased review.I give this book 5 solid STARS.High Five to you, Ms. Wall and keep up the fantastic work.. I must read COFFIN MAKER as soon as I can.

  • Stacy
    2019-04-19 05:22

    Beautiful tragedyCrisp sticky writing that allows you to visualization of the story contrasts the egocentricity of childhood w an adults empathy. Strong females. Only prob was w the drugs talking about crack but calling it heroin

  • Phyllis C Surface
    2019-04-10 06:21

    Two star ratingStrange book to me. Plot seemed somehow disjointed in several places. Wouldn't recommend this one to those that I know, sorry

  • Sue-Lynn Voigt
    2019-04-25 05:28

    I picked this book up at a library fundraiser. I like this book a lot. It kept the story moving and I think addressed the issues quite well.

  • Helen Macan
    2019-03-29 06:28

    Read in one dayI couldn't put this book down. Intriguing, interesting and well developed. The characters are loveable, aggravating, and some you just want to throw out the window.

  • Alicia
    2019-04-04 23:16

    Playing with Matches was a wonderful story of survival and inner-strength. The character development keeps you guessing and yearning to get to know Carolyn's characters even more.

  • Molly Burtle
    2019-04-02 23:33

    I did not care for the first half of this book partly because of confusion over the boy in the tree and the fire that burned the mother's house down. It was also relentlessly depressing. However I loved the second part when there was hope and explanation of Clea's early childhood.

  • Mary Knnedy
    2019-04-20 23:07

    I loved this Southern book.

  • Michelle
    2019-04-17 03:30

    In Carolyn Wall’s Playing with Matches, a reader comes face-to-face with what can only be termed as an eclectic cast of characters brought together by familial bonds as established by blood and by love. At the center of this group is Clea, a young girl abandoned by her mother at birth but forced to watch this same mother live her life as Clea’s next-door neighbor. The “mommy issues” that abound culminate in a tragedy that impacts all of their lives and directly correlate to Clea’s trust issues as an adult. When seeking refuge among those who loved her as a child, Clea is forced to reconcile her past in order to be able to come to grips with her present and be able to move on with her future.Clea Shine is a character about whom readers can sympathize but with whom they cannot empathize. This is a key difference that directly relates to one’s understanding of Clea’s motivations and overall enjoyment of Playing with Matches. While it easy for a reader to feel sorry for Clea because of her abandonment issues, her warring desires to seek her mother’s approval and to put as much distance between her and her mother’s chosen profession and town infamy remain more difficult to fathom. Much of this is the fault of the first-person narrative, as a reader must weed through the emotions and mental capacity of Clea as a child during the key scenes in the novel. Even though Clea is an intelligent child, she is extremely naïve and conceited, which makes discerning the truth a somewhat trying task. Along a similar vein, while adult Clea is very relatable, child Clea is not very likable. Her naiveté seems misplaced for the time of the story, and her unwillingness to learn more about her fellow neighbors let alone learn from past mistakes makes her fairly unpalatable. One’s understanding of Clea improves once the story jumps ahead in time to when Clea is an adult but by that time the damage is done.There is a constancy to Playing with Matches that creates a dreamlike quality throughout the entire novel. The meandering lifestyle that exists in False River is as appropriate for the late 1800s as it is for the more current decades. While this does much to establish the timelessness of Clea’s simultaneous derision of and desire for her mother, it also can create some very jarring moments while reading when the true time period makes itself known. Snippets such as songs on the radio, descriptions of car makes and models, media references, and the mention of various electronic equipment on the surface, while establishing a time frame for reference, never fail to surprise a reader at the modernity of the tale. While this is not a bad thing, it can be decidedly unsettling.Playing with Matches is one of those novels which requires an emotional connection between the reader and the main character for total enjoyment. Without it, the entire story fails to impress or live up to its potential. Readers may find it difficult to establish that essential emotional bond because Clea’s character remains such a conundrum throughout the story. The story jumps from random event to random event, failing to allowing the reader a full understanding of Clea’s thoughts and actions. The jumps through time create a jaggedness that only serves to accentuate just how little a reader truly knows her. That being said, the shining beacon in the entire novel is Auntie, who remains the steadfastly loyal and loving caretaker that she shows herself to be within the first few pages. While Clea remains unclear and relatively undefined, Auntie is the exact opposite. Had Clea been as well-defined as Auntie, or at least more vibrant, Playing with Matches would have been a powerful novel about the need to belong and the power of love. Instead, it is a rather insipid, predictable story that tries to eke out drama where none exists.Acknowledgments: Thank you to NetGalley and Bantam Dell for my e-galley!

  • Lisse
    2019-04-14 03:05

    Have been waiting with anticipation for this book to come out. I recieved Carolyn Wall's first novel, Sweeping Up Glass, as a Firstreads book when it came out and it quickly became one of my favorite books. I am constantly sharing it with people I meet. I enjoyed Playing With Matches, but it was not, in my opinion, better than Sweeping Up Glass (it would have to have been crazy good to be better than SUG). I did enjoy Playing with Matches, especially the biggest part of the novel that talked about Clea's time as a child growing up in Mississippi with her "Auntie" Jerusha. I love Wall's writing. She really gets me invested in her characters and they say such beautiful things...or at times, such human, but oh-my-goodness, I-can't-believe-she-said-that things that I never wanted to skim over any of her words. I could have gone on reading about Clea's time as a child in Mississippi for much longer, but Wall instead transitioned us to Clea as an adult. I didn't feel the transition was bad, but I just wasn't quite as invested in the adult Clea as I was Cleas as a child. I did enjoy seeing her grow and the whole idea that even as adults (or maybe especially as adults) we still don't have life figured out and it's a lot of trial and error and hoping our loved ones will hang with us as we go through our struggles. I adored Auntie Jerusha's and Uncle Cuddy's characters; I thought they were beautiful human beings full of character and love. If you enjoyed Sweeping Up Glass, you will most likely enjoy Playing with Matches as well.

  • Annie Fyfe
    2019-04-22 23:29

    I enjoyed this book while I reading it, but looking back on it I’m not sure how much I really liked it. There were some things that really bugged me, the jump of approximately 20 years in between two of the chapters; it just skips forward in time unexpectedly and without much detail about what happened during those missing years. I also didn’t really like the story line with the boy who lived in the tree; I really wanted more out of him. I really liked the beginning when Clea was a girl, I didn’t really like her as an adult and maybe that’s a point of the story. But even after everything she went through as an adult back in Mississippi I still didn’t really like her, I didn’t feel like she had changed, and I wanted young Clea back. The ending wasn’t my favorite either, I’m not sure if the big storm coming was necessary, it just all got really dramatic and I didn’t enjoy it. One thing I did like about this book was the southern setting. You really got a good feel for the town and the locals. But I really felt like this book should’ve either focused on the younger years of Clea or the adulthood, trying to do both didn’t work for me. The book is well written and I can see it appealing to some readers, just be aware of that weird split in the middle.For a more in depth and personal review see my blog: