Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
3 out of 5 stars
My stepmom recommended this for one of my classics...she had read it a long time ago and really loved it, so I picked it up at the library for this month. I did enjoy it, but it was a little hard to get into at first. The dialect in particular was hard to get used to, it's an extreme Southern country language with lots of "dern hit" (darn it) and "aint". And yes, I do have a strong Texan accent at times, but even I had trouble with this. There was also a lot of religious talk, so if you're not comfortable with that, you may want to skip this one.
Will Tweedy is a 14 year old boy in 1906 Georgia. He's used to working hard and doing what he's told. His Grandma has just died 3 weeks before and everyone is in mourning (which means no fishing trip for Will), except Grandpa Blakeslee. Grandpa busts into Will's home one morning, takes his daily gulp of whiskey (his wife wouldn't let him keep it at home) and announces to his two horrified daughters that he is getting remarried. To the much younger Miss Love Simpson, his employee down at the general store. He needs someone to take care of him by gosh and he'll be derned if he's goin' to be lettin' his daughters do it fer him. Or something like that. :)
I will give the author that, it's hard to write continuously in such a strong accent! My sister and I were discussing accents yesterday. She had read an article about how Texans are losing their accent (here's a similar article I found) because of so many immigrants moving into the state and young people not wanting to sound like that anymore. Which is true. I definitely say plenty of "y'alls" but I can put on or pull back that "Texan" depending on the time and place. When I'm down in East Texas (Paris or Cooper area if you know it) visiting my mom's family, it gets real thick and I start sounding like a hillbilly sometimes lol. But that's okay with me. I love being a Texan. It's not like any other state or country. :) Then my sister and I started saying different words like Don & Dawn or Cot & Caught and they all started sounding the same. Try it. Do they sound different to you?
Okay, back to the story! The family and town are horrified by Grandpa's actions but he doesn't care. He does his own thing and to heck with everyone else. Grandpa Blakeslee reminds me of Grandpa Cotton from King of the Hill, except Blakeslee's missing an arm instead of his shins. I heard his voice the whole time I was reading this. Will Tweedy becomes a sort of chaperone for the two after they go and get hitched suddenly. Grandpa and Miss Love both make it very clear that this is a business arrangement: he gets someone to take care of him and the house and she gets the house when he dies. Miss Love is only in her mid-30s but for that time period, she is already an old maid. All she really wants is a home and family of her own and Mr Blakeslee gives her a way to have it. Even though the family refuses to accept her.
We see and hear the aftermath of this atrocity thru Will's eyes, so it's a little biased. He worships his Grandpa and fancies Miss Love, so he's all for the relationship. But we do get a good mixture of funny and heartfelt exchanges and it brings us a nice, well-rounded story in the end. Like I said above, there is quite a bit of God-fearing, Bible-thumping going on here so if that's not your cup of tea, you may not enjoy this as much. I'm not an overly-religious person myself, so I didn't care for those parts too much but it wasn't overbearing. Will is a genuinely funny boy, he has a natural knack for story-telling and making jokes. Especially at the expense of his Aunt Loma, who is only a few years older than him.
There are some sad, heart-breaking moments too though. Will's family has to deal with a lot of death and sadness throughout the story. There's also a harrowing moment when Will gets stuck on a train trellis that will leave your heart beating faster and goosebumps down your arms. So really, this book has everything. :)