A gorgeously written and irresistibly intimate queer novel that follows one family across four generations to explore legacy and identity in all its forms, longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.
“So deeply imagined and immersive that reading it felt like an invitation: Shatter what needs to be shattered and mold your story from what’s left . . . I needed this novel, both for its cathartic devastation and the hope found in its wreckage.” —The New York Times
“Kaleidoscopic in its sweep, without sentimentality or showiness . . . Glassworks warrants our attention and our admiration. With its gripping turns and subtle prose, it is a near-perfect debut.” —Washington Post
In 1910, Agnes Carter makes the wrong choice in marriage. After years as an independent woman of fortune, influential with the board of a prominent university because of her financial donations, she is now subject to the whims of an abusive, spendthrift husband. But when Bohemian naturalist and glassblower Ignace Novak reignites Agnes's passion for science, Agnes begins to imagine a different life, and she sets her mind to getting it.
Agnes's desperate actions breed secrecy, and the resulting silence echoes into the future. Her son, Edward, wants to be a man of faith but struggles with the complexities of the mortal world while apprenticing at a
In 1986, Edward's child, Novak-just Novak-is an acrobatic window washer cleaning Manhattan high-rises, who gets caught up in the plight of Cecily, a small town girl remade as a gender-bending Broadway ingénue.
And in 2015, Cecily's daughter Flip-a burned-out stoner trapped in a bureaucratic job firing cremains into keepsake glass ornaments-resolves to break the cycle of inherited secrets, reaching back through the generations in search of a family legacy that feels true.
For readers of Mary Beth Keane, Min Jin Lee, and Rebecca Makkai, Glassworks is "an era-spanning, family and chosen-family following, marvel of a debut." (CJ Hauser, author of Family of Origin)
Praise for Glassworks
"So deeply imagined and immersive that reading it felt like an invitation: Shatter what needs to be shattered and mold your story from what’s left . . . I needed this novel, both for its cathartic devastation and the hope found in its wreckage." - New York Times Book Review
"Kaleidoscopic in its sweep, without sentimentality or showiness . . . The first half of the novel haunts the second, with the feelings, mistakes and queer contexts of earlier stories surfacing and resurfacing in (more) contemporary settings . . . Glassworks warrants our attention and our admiration. With its gripping turns and subtle prose, it is a near-perfect debut." - The Washington Post
"This captivating saga that feels as taut and fragile as the glass-blown ornaments at the center of it follows four generations of people who discover that one wrong choice can echo across the ages. It's a twisty tale of love, chosen family, hard choices and harder people that picks up speed as it goes, careening breathlessly toward the last page." - Good Housekeeping, Best Books of 2023 So Far
"Olivia Wolfgang-Smith’s first novel is a generation-spanning epic of family, inheritance, and identity … With richly drawn characters and deft storytelling, Glassworks is a beautifully crafted, memorable debut." - Booklist, Starred Review
"This sophisticated debut from Wolfgang-Smith traces an evolving emotional legacy through four generations of a family while examining the basic question of ‘how to love something without letting it have everything’ … Wolfgang-Smith writes like a glass blower, patiently building and enhancing to create durable beauty. Simply put, this is a wonderful, wonderful book." - Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
"Wolfgang-Smith’s writing — a heady blend of rich descriptions and discerning insights — makes [Glassworks] a striking read." - WBUR.org
"In Olivia Wolfgang-Smith’s emotive novel Glassworks, four generations struggle under the weight of unexpressed feelings, unsaid words, and unmet needs … Always, there is a Novak at the center of the story, reaching with breathless anticipation for happiness, stability, comfort, and forgiveness. Glassworks is a layered, lyrical family saga about love and determination." - Foreword Reviews
"Wolfgang-Smith contends with vocation, identity, and the meaning of family in her appealing debut… As the various threads tie together, the author makes clever use of her central metaphor, considering glass as sharp, fluid, changeable, and even surprising—much like the characters she depicts. This is a radiant exploration of a complex legacy." - Publishers Weekly
"[Glassworks] is a captivating and warm epic." - Debutiful, Can’t-Miss Debut Books You Should Read in May
"A moving queer family saga following found family and blood family, and what happens when buried secrets come to light." - Town & Country, The 38 Must-Read Books of Spring 2023
"A page turner, a work of gorgeous prose, a rollicking good story full of brilliant observations about the human experience and characters I sometimes forget I do not know in real life. ... If Elizabeth McCracken and David Mitchell had a love child, it might look a bit like this era-spanning, family and chosen-family following, marvel of a debut." - CJ Hauser, author of FAMILY OF ORIGIN
"Rendered in achingly gorgeous prose, Glassworks sweeps across generations, forging an engrossing portrait of a complex inheritance—a wise and inventive debut." - Jennine Capó Crucet, author of MAKE YOUR HOME AMONG STRANGERS
"With warmth, vividness, and humor, Wolfgang-Smith examines what we inherit and what is lost to silence and shows us how people come into themselves alongside the fragile legacies they build. A dazzling new voice." - Cara Blue Adams, author of YOU NEVER GET IT BACK
"An astonishing multigenerational saga from a once-in-a-generation talent." - Jake Wolff, author of THE HISTORY OF LIVING FOREVER
"In her brilliant and expansive debut, Glassworks, Olivia Wolfgang-Smith opens a window into the lives of four individuals separated across time and bound together by blood and vocation—here, glass is science, an art, an obstacle, a means for income, and the preserver of mystery. As these characters search for purpose and reason in their specific timelines, Wolfgang-Smith guides them with an empathetic eye, allowing them to act with pure heart and gumption, and daring readers to do the same. A refreshing, queer novel packed with found families, buried secrets, and intricate imagery, Glassworks is—simply put—stunning." - Christopher Gonzalez, author of I'M NOT HUNGRY BUT I COULD EAT
"Olivia Wolfgang-Smith’s debut is delicate, elegant, and timeless. ?Reminiscent of novels by Sarah Schulman and Michael Cunningham, Glassworks is a charming, tender examination of human foibles and the story of a remarkable family — lost, found, and chosen." - Rafe Posey, author of THE STARS WE SHARE
"Beautifully written … [Glassworks] examines the way both pain and beauty can be passed down through generations, as well as the way family bonds can be chosen." - Them, 7 Queer Book Sagas to Lose Yourself In