Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Cold Sassy Tree

Cold Sassy Tree. Olive Ann Burns. 1984. 405 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Three weeks after Granny Blakeslee died, Grandpa came to our house for his early morning snort of whiskey, as usual, and said to me, “Will Tweedy? Go find yore mama, then run up to yore Aunt Loma’s and tell her I said git on down here. I got something to say. And I ain’t a-go’n say it but once’t.”

Premise/plot: Olive Ann Burns’ historical novel is set in the fictional town of Cold Sassy, Georgia, in 1906/07. The narrator is a young boy—14, I believe—named Will Tweedy. It will be a huge year for him: his grandpa remarries just three—yes, three—weeks after his grandma’s death; he gets run over by a train and lives to tell the tale; he not only rides in his first automobile but he learns to drive; he kisses a girl. But there are losses as well. It is a substantive coming of age novel. I wouldn’t be surprised if you laughed and cried while reading it.

My thoughts: Cold Sassy Tree is a fantastic read. I loved just about everything. The characters are well developed. As are the relationships. Will has a special relationship with his grandpa and his new wife, Miss Love. It is an unusual relationship with Miss Love. While the rest of the family is upset, scandalized, bitter, Will becomes her close friend and confidante. Some secrets he comes by honestly—things told to him directly. Other secrets he learns via his eavesdropping. But even the tension-filled relationships are done well. For example, Will’s relationship with his Aunt Loma!!! I also loved the narrative voice. Will’s narrative is complex. He is a storyteller. He knows how to keep things light-hearted and humorous—even when the joke is at his expense. But he can also be serious and somber. Life has thrown him some huge changes—like his best friend’s death—and he has to work out what it all means and where he belongs. Who could help loving him? This doesn’t mean that he has all the answers and is perfectly perfect in terms of morals, ethics, and maturity. But this work in progress is lovable.


One Wednesday night he ended a long prayer with “Lord, forgive me for fittin’ [fighting] thet man yesterd’y—though Thou knowest if I had it to do over again I’d hit him harder.” (20)
There wasn’t a grown person in Cold Sassy who couldn’t pass away the time after Sunday dinner by recollecting who’d died of what when, but Granny was the only one I ever heard be interesting about it. (57)
In Cold Sassy, nobody under forty had ever made or waved an American Flag. Even today, in 1914, there’s not but one United States flag in the whole town. The post office being in one corner of the drug store, Dr. Clark is required to fly a U.S. flag. On July 4, 1906, he put it down to half-mast. (61)
I definitely plan on rereading this one at some point. First I need to convince my mom to read it.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Alyssa Nelson said...

Yay! I feel like this is such a hidden gem. I randomly picked this book up one day in the library several years ago and fell in love with it. I'm so glad you like it too!

Lark said...

This is one of my all-time favorite books. Every time I read it I love it a little bit more. :)