Book Review – Days Made of Glass by Laura Drake

days-made-of-glassHarlie Cooper’s number-one mission in life is to take care of her little sister Angel. But Harlie soon learns that fierce determination and impassioned independence can’t always fix everything.

Harlie and Angel Cooper have been on their own since their mother died. Although initially placed with a relative, his death leaves them fleeing from Child Protective Services.

The sun was nearing the horizon when Harlie and Angel stepped out of the police cruiser. Sawhorses stood sentinel, blocking the bottom of the driveway. Plywood sheets covered the windows, the raw wood garish against the sooty façade. Yellow ‘Do Not Cross’ tape wove through the slats of the porch railing like a new ribbon through a battered basket.

Harlie will see to it that they stay together, no matter what. So they run.

…when they hit LA, every neighborhood seemed old, tired and used up. People gathered on the corners, trash gathered in the gutters. Gone were the friendly faces of the valley. Unease had skittered over Harlie’s skin with repulsive little spider feet.  People there seemed foreign in a way she’d never seen before – their faces were hard, cold, dangerous. Or maybe she was just paranoid. But she and Angel were alone in the world and if Harlie made the wrong decision, they’d both pay.

At 17, Harlie barely has the resources to take care of herself, much less her troubled younger sister, but she is determined to make it work. The ranch-hand job she eventually finds pays for their meager existence, and she even gets to play a stunt-double as a cowgirl on a movie set. One day on the set, the movie-star’s dog runs into the ring and tangles with a bull; Harlie jumps into action. Without thinking, she runs into the arena and scoops up the dog, but not without getting the bull’s full attention. As the bull runs straight toward her, Harlie does the only thing she knows to do – jump right onto the bulls lowered head, and let the bull catapult her to the fence.

Because of her fearless “bull-jumping,” a scout for the Professional Bull Rider’s Association (PBR) has an idea – Harlie could train to be the first female bullfighter, saving bull riders in the ring. Harlie can’t believe it – this is her dream job. But how could she ever leave Angel?

When Harlie returns home that evening, she finds broken windows and mirrors, and Angel in a pool of blood, carving her arm with a shard of glass.  Harlie can no longer just hope that Angel’s dark moods will improve; she is broken and needs help. She now admits that Angel needs more care than she can give her – a psychiatric hospital.

Harlie knows what she must do – if she watches her pennies and skips a few meals, the rodeo circuit might barely pay enough to satisfy the price of Angel’s hospital stay, and the therapy she needs.

Harlie has always been a loner, and knows that a woman doing a man’s job is sometimes hard to overcome.  But she isn’t prepared for the venom she receives in bullfighting school, or on the rodeo circuit.

Will Harlie be able to overcome the bias against her in a man’s world? And will her sweet sister ever come back to her?  Harlie must brave the unknown to keep her family of two intact. But along the way, she might just learn that relying on someone else isn’t a weakness, and that even independent souls need friendship.

While reading this book, I felt the bond between these sisters, along with the anxiety of their situation. I admired Harlie’s fierce independence, but also felt grief over her nonexistent childhood. Harlie Cooper is a character readers can’t help but cheer-on in her struggle for survival.

In Days Made of Glass, Drake takes us into the world of Harlie Cooper’s hardscrabble life, and shows us that, in the face of adversity, having a friend to share the burden is sometimes worth the risk of sharing yourself.

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