Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Book 1: Cold Sassy Tree

Title: Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

Pages: 391

How was it obtained: Over the summer my family had a great vacation.  A book exchange was proposed as a part of the week.  I walked away with Cold Sassy Tree.  I think the book is from Liz's library.

Time spent on the "To Read" shelf:  5 months.  Not too bad.

Days spent reading it: 15 days.

Why I read it:  This book was the catalyst for the Patrick Challenge.  I was wondering to myself if Ben had read the book he took from me at the exchange.  Naturally I thought it was so cool, he should have read it by now.  (Better get on it Ben, I expect a full report after Christmas)  Then I thought, well heck, I haven't read my book exchange book yet.  Maybe I had better get on that.  And maybe I had better start reading all the other books I should have read by now.  So I started with Cold Sassy Tree.

Brief Review:  Boy Howdy!  'Hit sure were somet'in to read 'dis here book!  Haw!
Set in Northeast Georgia around the turn of the 19th century, Cold Sassy Tree follows the exploits of Will Tweedy during a unique year of his life.  The book starts with his grandma dying, and his grandpa marrying 3 weeks after the funeral--to the great scandal of the family and town.  Will is a detailed observer of this quirky town.  He reflects the thoughts of a souther town where everyone knows everyone else's business.  

I am conflicted in my appreciation of this book.  One the one hand it was difficult to read the dialect, and the truth is a small town is sometimes boring.   On the other hand, the character of Will Tweedy makes this tedious lifestyle exciting.  Olivia Ann Burns created a great character in Will, who is able to make trouble and to explain the scandals of the town. He lets loose rats at a Christmas play, he spies on his family, he nearly gets killed by a train while walking across train trestles.  I enjoyed this book, but also found it laborious at times.  

What kept me going was my connection to the geographic location--the town of Cold Sassy is modeled after Commerce, Georgia--which was about 30 minutes from where I went to college for four years.  I knew all the sights and towns mentioned in the book.  I think readers who enjoy southern small-town life would enjoy this book.  It is full of quirky characters, gossip centered events, and a lot of soul.

Favorite quote from the book:  The fights were embarrassing to the family but real entertaining to the Baptists, for he would stand up at the next Wednesday night prayer meeting, in the testimonial and confessing part, and tell the Lord all about it.  One Wednesday night he ended a long prayer with "Lord, forgive me for fittin' thet man yesterd'y--though Thou knowest if i had it to do over agin I'd hit him harder."

Stars: 3 0ut of 5.

The Final Word: Soulfully-southern.


Elizabeth Bryant Alexander said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this book over a Christmas break. The sequel, naturally, is not as enjoyable. I think I only managed the first 50 pages. I also went to that "Ag school" 30 minutes from Commerce and enjoyed reading about the area.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the review (of a book I have read & reread). I don't think the dialogue was troublesome for me at all. But, I definitely see how it could bog you down. I also think that the regional interest is quite integral to my enjoyment of the book. The author's story is quite interesting. She & her husband fought various cancers throughout their adult lives & writing, mostly journalism, was her activity that "saved" her during many of her fights w/ cancer. She didn't think about writing the novel until she was middle-aged, although she lots of experience writing for the AJC. Many of the events in the book are loosely based on her family history. The sequel is really just a few chapters & then notes for the rest of the book. She was never able to finish b/c she did finally lose her battle w/ cancer. Anyway, she was a neat lady.

Ben said...

Patrick - I did finish World War Z quite some time ago, and I've even recommended it to others. "If you read one book about zombies in your life - it should be this one." ha ha, oddly enough that's the only book about zombies I've ever read. Most people just look at me strangely.

I did like it quite a bit, though perhaps I should save those comments for my own blog (if I ever get around to cataloging my "Patrick Challenge" books - they're in a pile in our guest room).

As for Cold Sassy tree - it's kind of like To Kill a Mockingbird, but without the heavy racial themes. A good read (especially for fans of Southern fiction), but perhaps lacking in that deepness that you get from other Southern authors (Faulkner, Lee, Penn Warren, etc.)

If you haven't already, you might try reading All the King's Men. While not a literary masterpiece, it is one of those timeless books that seems to touch many of the same issues we live with (and are still trying to get rid of) today.

Patrick said...

Thanks for the background Liz! A little of it was in the author write up in the back, but your description fills it out even a little more.

Ben, I'm glad you enjoyed World War Z, definitely the one book on Zombies to read in your life. Some of my friends read All the King's Men during high school and liked it. Maybe when I'm through my list...

Liz and Elizabeth Alexander--thanks for the heads up about the sequel. I was curious if it was worth it. I guess not. That happens occasionally.