Hour Glass by Michelle Rene is the story of many lives, told through the lens of the young protagonist, Jimmy Glass. In non-linear fashion, Rene begins her story toward the end, when Jimmy and the infamous Calamity Jane once again cross paths. From there the story moves backward—to recount past events and the ways multiple lives are forever entangled. Hour Glass is a novel of strength, sadness, and perseverance.
Jimmy Glass’s father is dying of smallpox. With no options or way to help him at their homestead, Jimmy takes his dad and his younger sister Flower into the closest town—Dead Wood, South Dakota. A mining town is an unforgiving place, but Jimmy and his younger sister are quickly taken in by none other than Calamity Jane herself and a madam named Dora Duffran. The two siblings quickly find a home in the brothel and await news of their father’s health.
As their father’s life teeters on the edge, Jimmy’s dreams are full of visitations by his deceased Lakota stepmother Without Cage. She takes Jimmy to various times in their lives to show him things he needs to see and things he needs to remember.
Hour Glass is a novel driven by a complex cast of characters. There’s Calamity Jane, a belligerent drunkard with a kind heart. Jimmy Glass, a young boy with the burdens of manhood pushed on him far too early. Dora Duffran, the madam with a heart of gold and a spine of steel. Without Cage is seen only through memories, but her unbreakable spirit remains as strong as ever, and her character floats through the novel as any other earthly bound character with whom Rene gifts us.
Then there’s Flower Glass, Jimmy’s younger sister, a girl who many think of as peculiar for her anti-social behavior. She’s taciturn and reserved, dislikes loud noises and being touched, and appears not to pay any attention to what’s going on around her. Jane, however, seems to effortlessly bring Flower, or Hour as she comes to be known, out of her shell when others cannot.
This historical fiction manages to tell the story of many lives through only one character’s voice. Readers will find a sentimental novel that does an impressive job of recounting the meaningful ways in which lives can intersect, however briefly, and cause changes that will last forever.
Hour Glass by Michelle Rene won the 2017 Chanticleer Int’l Book Awards Overall Grand Prize!