Cold Sassy Tree

Monday, March 11, 2013

Cold Sassy Tree
by Olive Ann Burns

It’s 1906 and Will Tweedy, a 14-year-old boy in a small Georgia town, tells us stories about his family. His tales mainly focus on this stubborn grandfather Rucker Blakeslee, who decides to remarry a very young woman only three weeks after his wife dies.
His adult daughters are scandalized and the town of Cold Sassy is shocked. Rucker’s new wife, Miss Love Simpson, is a strong woman, but she still wants to be accepted by the traditional town. Rucker runs the local grocery store, so everyone in town knows his business. The novel captures the core of small town life. Everything you do is under a microscope and people are so concerned about what their nosy neighbors will think of their every decision.

The book focuses on Will’s whole family, from his bossy Aunt Loma to his quiet, devoted father Hoyt. It’s written almost like a collection of short stories, weaving from one adventure to the next. The chapter that takes place on a train trestle was so intense it had a heart racing! I also loved the scenes with the Rucker and his wife Mattie Lou before she died. He’s a tough old bird, but when it comes to love he’s a complete softie.

The point-of-view did remind me of To Kill a Mockingbird, not just because it’s a child of a similar age, but also because it's set during a similar time period in the south. There's an observational honesty that comes from choosing a narrator like that. The story never reaches the same depth as To Kill a Mockingbird, but it has a similar tone.

BOTTOM LINE: I really loved reading about Will’s adventures and I was surprised and touched by the serious tone the book took on towards the end. I’d highly recommend this one for anyone who enjoys coming-of-age stories, turn-of-the-century fiction or Southern novels.

“To me they were like a book, a book with the last chapter missing. And I couldn’t wait to know how it ended.”

“To mourn is not the same as to be in mourning, which means wearing a black armband and sitting in the parlor talking to people who call on the bereaved. At first you feel important, the armband makes you special like having on a badge, but after a day or two it stops meaning anything. But to mourn, that’s different. To mourn is to be eaten alive with homesickness for the person.”

“My mother always said, ‘Never expect church members to be perfect, Christians are still people.”


Sandy Nawrot said...

One of my books clubs read this about a year ago, and we unilaterally loved it. We felt it has whispers of TKAM as well, with the gossipy town and the young narrator. There was definitely more heft here than I expected, and would highly recommend it to anyone!

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I'm pretty sure I read this for a school assignment but I can't entirely remember. Seems to me like I should give it another read especially since I'll probably appreciate it more from my adult perspective.

Nikki Steele said...

That line is lovely and such a beautiful way to illustrate mourning -- "to be eaten alive with homesickness for the person."

Sounds like a very interesting book!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - Me too, just a lovely book.

Bookworm1858 - I do think it would be very different to read as a child.

Nikki - That just struck me as so very true. Overwhelming homesickness is the closest thing I could compare grief to.

Charlie said...

I like the idea of the book being almost a collection of short stories. I haven't read To Kill A Mockingbird so can't comment there, but the story here sounds good and full of detail.

Selah said...

I've never read this one but I love To Kill a Mockingbird so this one gets added to the "To Be Read" list!

Also, I was checking out your Pinterest Boards and found Gilmore Girls pins! GG is my favorite show ever! It premiered right after I got married and Bert and I watched it every week (before DVRs when we actually had to watch it "live"). After the last episode, I crawled into his lap and cried my eyes out. We still quote it regularly.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Charlie - It really was wonderful. I can't believe it was the author's first novel, but the same is true for TKAM as well.

Selah - Yay for another Gilmore Girls fan! I love that show, especially the early seasons. Rory is one of my favorite TV bookworms.

Brooke said...

I read this last year and it became one of my all-time favorite books. I live in Georgia and this book just gets the South right in all ways.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Brooke - I'm so glad they get the South part right. I'm a yankee, so I can never tell.