Sunday, October 15, 2006

'Cold Sassy' Hilarious Depiction of Small Town Southern Life

I'm probably the last person on Earth to read Olive Ann Burns' Cold Sassy Tree, but now that I have I can see why this novel has become such a classic. It's a book with a little bit of everything - humor, romance, tragedy and redemption. The story is told by Will Tweedy, a 14-year-old boy who finds himself smack dab in the middle of the biggest scandal the small town of Cold Sassy, Georgia, has ever witnessed. The buzz begans on July 5, 1906, when Will's grandfather, E. Rucker Blakeslee, elopes with the local milliner, a younger woman and a Yankee to boot. As if that isn't bad enough, Rucker's wife of several decades has been dead for less than three weeks! Scandalized, the townspeople shun Rucker's new wife as a low-class golddigger, and proceed to make her existence a miserable one. Both Rucker and Love have too much pride to let the town unrattle them, so they proceed to cause even more uproar by holding their own church services at home, buying a motorcar, and taking a luxurious trip to New York City. Will's caught in the middle, torn by loyalty to his outrageous grandfather and his obedience to his pious father and scandalized mother. To make matters worse, Will catches Love kissing a strange Texan, and then he finds himself in a similar situation with a no-count millworker. When tragedy strikes Will's family, he is forced to see his colorful grandpa in a different light.

Like I said, this book is laugh-out-loud hilarious, (mostly because of its zany characters and Will's own funny adventures) but it is also surprisingly poignant. Some of the situations are startling and heartbreaking. Overall, it is a vivid and colorful portrait of small-town Southern life that sparkles and shines. Don't miss it!

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