On July 5, 1906, scandal breaks in the small town of Cold Sassy, Georgia, when the proprietor of the general store, E. Rucker Blakeslee, elopes with Miss Love Simpson. He is barely three weeks a widower, and she is only half his age and a Yankee to boot. As their marriage inspires a whirlwind of local gossip, fourteen-year-old Will Tweedy suddenly finds himself eyewitness to a family scandal, and that’s where his adventures begin. Cold Sassy Tree is the undeniably entertaining and extraordinarily moving account of small-town Southern life in a bygone era. Brimming with characters who are wise and loony, unimpeachably pious and deliciously irreverent, Olive Ann Burns’s classic bestseller is a timeless, funny, and resplendent treasure. (Goodreads)
Reviewed by Kammy T
Cold Sassy is a fictional town in Georgia, and this book takes place in 1906. Will Tweedy is 14, and tells the story about his family and the events that changed them that summer. I enjoyed his voice and the southern accents, "ast," " 'tweren't," "swannee." Olive Ann Burns uses her characters' voices to create the whole feel of the town.
In the second page of the book Will Tweedy says, "I and my little redheaded sister, Mary Toy, always followed him down the hall and he usually gave us each a stick of penny candy." I liked him right away. Just a few pages later, when describing Miss Love Simpson he says "I had always admired Miss Love, with all that wavy brown hair piled atop her head, and that smiley, freckledy face and those friendly gray-blue eyes. She was a merry person, like Grandpa." Wouldn't you love to be described as a "merry person"?
There is a sweet story that his Grandma would tell about his Grandpa, "When he come back to Cold Sassy after the War, he was the handsomest man you ever seen and I was a old maid. Twenty-one year old and never had a beau in my life. I was fixin' to go to church one Sunday morning when this good-lookin' feller, he tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'Ain't you Miss Mattie Lou Toy? You don't need no sermon today. Stay out here and le's talk.'...So we stayed in the churchyard, like a re'lar courtin' couple, and talked one another's ears off.....Fore that day was over Mr. Blakeslee said he was a-go'n marry me..." Cold Sassy Tree is filled with these little heart-warming moments.
I also loved the sweet wisdom that Grandpa shares in nuggets throughout the book. Like, "Livin' is like pourin' water out of a tumbler into a dang Coca-Cola bottle. If'n you skeered you cain't do it, you cain't. If'n you say to youreself, 'By dang, I can do it!' then, by dang, you won't slosh a drop." Later after Will escapes a close run in with a train he is asking his Grandpa if it was God's will that he survived. His Grandpa said, "What God give you was a brain. Hit's His will for you to use it--p'tickler when a train's comin'." Grandpa's religious explanations were especially meaningful. He offers a "family prayer" right after Will's accident that is so great.
Cold Sassy is a small town, the kind that makes "small town" an adjective. I loved how when tragedy strikes, they gather together, bring food, and take care of each other. Of course, the other side of the coin was how when anything happens, there is someone there to judge, report and repeat what had happened. There are so many examples of this in the story.
I loved the family dynamics, and really how no one is perfect. Will makes some choices that drive you crazy, and Aunt Loma is such a pill, but by the end they have really endeared themselves to you. At least they did to me. I loved the Grandpa's teachings and his critiques of preachin' and where he thought the pastors were getting it wrong.
Market: Young Adult, but appealing to adults also
Sensuality: None, but two married people do converse and flirt in bed
Violence: Mild, Will refers to getting a whipping
Mature Themes: Death, re-marriage, poverty, but all addressed age appropriately