Friday, March 28, 2008

Cold Sassy Tree

Do you want to read a delightful book that is chocked full of wit, humor and valuable life lessons? Then I whole-heartedly recommend that you read Cold Sassy Tree. Olive Ann Burns wrote a doozy of a book, just as she turned 60. (She wrote it as a way of dealing with her cancer. Talk about taking something painful and turning it into something good... It seemed very therapeutic, not to mention worthwhile for the readers! Many of the characters and much of the wording are based on events from Olive Ann Burns' grandparents and life.)

Written from the viewpoint of 14-year-old Will Tweedy, this tale really centers around Will's grandpa, Rucker Blakeslee, while incorporating some true Southern living in the early 1900's. It's full of colorful Southern phrases, realistic events and genuine emotions from a host of characters.

The story begins with Grandpa Blakeslee, quick as lightning, marrying Love Simpson, a (much) younger woman who works in his mercantile store. Now normally this wouldn't be an issue, but since he went and hitched her only three weeks after Mattie Lou Blakeslee, his wife of 36 years, passed way, this is a major faux pas in all things Southern and appropriate. Oh the scandal! Oh the uproar! Oh the horror for his two daughters and their families who will have to face the town after such a bold and unloving move by Blakeslee. When questioned about the rightness of such a decision, Grandpa Blakeslee remarks that while he loved Grandma for many, many years, he sees no reason to wait a year to remarry, because "she's as dead as she's ever gonna be, ain't she?" and stomps off.

So begins an emotional rollercoaster ride for the entire family, with all of Cold Sassy looking on in enthrallment and dismay. The story is animated, hilarious and heartwarming; it has been called "the most realistic portrait of a small town in the early 1900s ever written." Not shying away from any touchy subjects, Burns ventures into town gossip, life and death, marital relations, social constraints, family ties, true love, politics, anger, envy/jealousy, modern technology and how people can keep their promises even when it hurts.

You will find yourself laughing over some of the most brilliant lines and nodding in agreement with others. Here are just a few examples of lines that caught my fancy:

I better go now, but I ain't never go'n forgit you and please don't forgit me, Will.

We can ast for comfort and hope and patience and courage . . . and we'll git what we ast for. They ain't no gar'ntee thet we ain't go'n have no troubles and ain't go'n die. But shore as frogs croak and cows bellow, God'll forgive us if'n we ast Him to.

And my favorite:

Lord, forgive me for fittin' thet man, even if'n I had it to do over agin I'd hit him harder.

Read this charmer of a book. I sincerely believe that you won't be disappointed. It's so good, I'm going to get a copy to stay on my bookshelf. If that isn't an endorsement, then I don't know what is!

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