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The Sweet By and By

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,178 Ratings  ·  430 Reviews
Meet five North Carolina women who are about to change the way you think about friendship. For Rhonda, a gritty, fun-loving hairdresser in tight jeans, the sights and smells of Ridgecrest Nursing Center are depressing. But before she can change her mind about working there, two residents glue themselves to her: Margaret, droll and whip-smart, with a will of iron that never ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published February 6th 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Linda Day
Aug 09, 2010 Linda Day rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, how I loved this book ! I know it is not meant for everyone, but if you have a fondness for the elderly, especially for Nursing Home elderly, you are gonna love it, too !

I laughed until the tears rolled down my cheeks; I cried until I couldn't see the page; I fell in love with the five main characters who tell their stories until they were so real I wondered what they are doing now.

I applaud you, Todd Johnson, for venturing into such a place as a Nursing Home where Margaret and Bernice live,
4.5 stars This is a first time author, a man who knows how to write women's characters. I loved the 5 women of this story, especially Lorraine, the care giver at a nursing home. I enjoyed her spunk, admired her faith, and the closeness she had both to God, & the dear ladies she deeply cared for. This a fun novel, but also touches on the aging process, and it taught me more about compassion. I would recommend this if you like women's fiction, and have a Grandma you miss.
Mar 13, 2010 Nikki rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
If I could give 3.5 stars, I would. I can't, so I'm defaulting to 3. I will say that the writing in this book was exquisite. There were some incredibly poignant lines of prose in this book, and Todd Johnson is undoubtedly to be commended for that. Beautiful!

That being said, I just didn't come away from this book feeling as connected to these women as I had thought. The book initially drew me in (another kudos to the amazing prose), but it never brought me further. There was suggestion of strong
Jan 13, 2012 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this gem of a book at the Good Will store the other night and while I barely glanced at the blurb, I just thought I'd heard about it somewhere and picked it up.

I read it in one and half days. It's that delicious. It's exactly the kind of read I need right now while my Dad is in the nursing home. It really is a gem.

You would think the premise of the book would be depressing because no one likes to talk about growing old and becoming dependent on others and no one wants to admit that eit
Nancy Carty Lepri
This is a "must read" book. Debut novel by Todd Johnson is not to be missed. It tells the tale of five southern women and how this separate lives mesh together. Characters include: Margaret Clayton, fiesty, sharp-as-a-tack, ninety-year-old woman in a nursing home; Bernice Stokes, short on memory due to grief and old age and befriended by Margaret; LPN African American Lorraine who cares for the residents of the nursing home and has suffered a hard life but is a God-fearing woman who believes any ...more
John Zenoni
Jun 12, 2015 John Zenoni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book! You can tell that the author loved the developing of the characters and their stories and lives. This book has got some of the best oneliners I have read in a long time and I will soon not forget. I cannot tell you the last time I have laughed out loud at a book like this one. The timing of my reading this book is also significant based on personal things going on in my life. This book is a true keeper and one that is highly recommended. Thank you to the author for ...more
Jun 08, 2011 Sharon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
This is such a profound book on so many levels that everyone should read it. One astonishing fact is that the author is a male, writing about females with exquisite sensitivity and insight, and not just any females -- elderly females and a couple younger ones.

The book is written from the viewpoints of the 5 main characters: two aging women in a nursing home, their main caregiver, a hairdresser who works part time at the nursing home, and the daughter of the caregiver. No, this may not sound lik
Feb 18, 2010 Louise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Wow, what a fantastic story of 5 women of different ages and from very different backgrounds whose lives come together in a journey of courage, hope, and humour.

You'll fall in love with the characters. Lorraine, a church-going, God-questioning nurse, befriends Margaret and Bernice in the old age home she works at. April, Lorraine's daughter struggles her way through medical school. Rhonda, the beer drinking hairdresser comes in and does the ladies hair on her days off and has a sassy way of talk
Mar 30, 2009 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Only to the young at heart
The various characters were interesting and their "voices" seemed authentic despite the fact they were all female and the author is a guy. I found it terribly depressing even though the ending was attempting to be upbeat and non-sectarian, religion-wise. I’m just too close in age to the ladies who live in the retirement home in this book. It was too easy to picture myself a resident, too. I only hope there really are employees that are as kind, and selfless as the aide, hairdresser and doctor in ...more
Slow-moving, some language, and not a worldview I subscribe to, but there are some gems in here about growing older and the benefits of intergenerational relationships. My favorite thought, "Watching them, I could believe in life, and God, seeing in them that age could be fashioned into a gold crown in the hands of love. And I could be assured that my mother's wonder had rooted itself in me, so deeply that I would feel her presence always, in the dignity she bestowed as carelessly as rainwater o ...more
Jul 07, 2016 Sandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern-fiction
How can a male author create such authentic female characters? Of the five female voices that tell this story, four of them specifically stole my heart right from the beginning. Bernice and Margaret have the most heartwarming relationship in a North Carolina nursing home where Lorraine works as a nurse's aide. Rhonda, reluctantly at first, spends one day a week with the residents as their hairdresser, and comes to lose her heart to Bernice and Margaret. I laughed out loud at the antics of the co ...more
Sep 07, 2009 Michele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This was a very well written book that I devoured in two days. However it is too sad to recommend. Its about the lives of 5 Southern women. Two are in a nursing home at the end of their lives, two are young women in the beginning of their adult lives and the last is in the middle age bracket. To me, a good book, 1. makes me think about it for the next week after I have finished it and 2. makes me not want to start another book immediately so I can savor it. 3. Doesn't make me sad. Well...2 out o
Jen Donnelly
I loved this book! It's so beautifully written...from the perspective of several different characters. Characters I completely fell in love with! I think it might have had special meaning to me because it's based around a North Carolina nursing that sounded so much like where my Nanny & Poppy spent their last years. I highly recommend you read this very sweet story!
May 19, 2014 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern-setting
What a journey!!! Todd Johnson draws you into Margret's life inside a retirement/nursing home. You are filled with laughter, sadness, and respect for each character. This is an insightful, easy paced book. I enjoyed it!!!
Apr 11, 2013 Gina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four and a half stars- great story. I enjoyed the characters and the sweet story line.
This review was written by Mary Dunn Siedow and posted by Lizzy Mottern

The voices of women tell this story of five women’s relationships with family and friends. Margaret and Bernice are residents of a nursing home where Lorraine is a nursing assistant. Margaret is an upper class white woman with a sharp mind, a quick wit and a decaying body. Lorraine, who is black, respects her patients and treats them with sassy tongued dignity. Margaret and Lorraine have an edgy relationship, each ordering th
Feb 06, 2010 Jackie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had decided not to read this book. It looked like another "chick-lit" that was just going to be sappy. How glad I am that I changed my mind.

This was one of those little narratives without really a plot, just an account of the intertwining of a few women's lives in North Carolina. A sweet description that ends up being more (in my mind) of a celebration of the cycle of life, and those relationships that define us through to the end.

Mr. Johnson has a talent for the use of words that reach into
Jun 19, 2010 Kasia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was such a pleasant surprise, I had no idea the story takes place in a retirement home, not that it diminishes the enjoyment, I simply haven't read books with that background before even though I'm well familiar with such a place. My favorite character, really witty and hilarious Margaret made this book a real pleasure to read, I simply couldn't wait to get back into it, to see what she would reveal to me as her days pass by. Living in a place where holidays are depressing she befriend ...more
Apr 21, 2010 Staci rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tlc-tour, 2010-reads
I have to admit that when I first started to read this book I was a bit confused as to the structure and what exactly was going on with the story. After the first couple of chapters I realized that this was a version of good ol' Southern storytelling. There isn't really a plot, per se...but instead a glimpse into the lives of five women whose paths have crossed because of a nursing home. Two women work in the nursing home and two women live in the nursing home. Each woman gets the opportunity to ...more
Dec 13, 2012 Shawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As close to perfect a debut novel as you're likely to find. In addition to stellar writing, the author captured the voices of these female characters perfectly. My book group had one of our most engaging discussions with this book. After our discussion, we listened to Dolly Parton's rendition of "The Sweet By and By". Oddly enough, it made Me appreciate the book anew.
It so happens that the author, Todd Johnson, contacted the local, independent bookstore where our group meets, and offered to sen
Sherry H
May 11, 2015 Sherry H rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a lovely, quiet, Southern novel filled with strong women who support one another through the trials of illness and aging and grief.

I am reminded of the strong, supportive women who cared for my mom during her final days; God bless them.

I love that these women found connections with one another, crossing barriers of race, religion, social status, health/mental health, etc... it was kind of beautiful. I am so impressed that this male author wrote these women so beautifully.

Mar 09, 2010 NancyG rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If there were a 4 1/2 star rating that is what I would give this lovely, sweet, poignant story about 5 women and a nursing home: Lorraine, loving African-American nurses aide; April, her med school daughter, Lorraine's 2 principal patients and beloved friends Margaret and Bernice (who can forget the stuffed monkey, Mr. Bernie) and Rhonda who cuts hair at the nursing home. If anyone had told me a man was capable of writing such a beatiful story as this I would have scoffed but he did (must have b ...more
Jan 29, 2014 Ruth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
One of the best books I have read in a while. The characters are great and the author uses the characters to present what they are all about as well as their understandings of other people. A wonderful gentle read. I was sad when it ended.
Jan 04, 2015 Sandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bookclubs, and everyone
Recommended to Sandra by: no one
I LOVED this book. It tells the story of five very different North Carolina women, linked by bittersweet circumstances. Mr. Johnson aptly deals with the difficulties of living and dying with grace, dignity, and surprisingly, a fair amount of wit and humor.

I adored Margaret who reminded me of the Dowager Lady Crowley of Downton Abby, with her subtle but lively compassion, smart aleck humor, and feistiness. Bernice, another inmate in Margaret's nursing home, rarely has a clear mind, haunted by tr
Coping with aging parents myself I enjoyed this portrayal of the lives of women in and involved with a nursing home--one of the aides who loves as well as tends her frail and sometimes senile patients, the woman who patiently does the residents' hair on her day off, two friends who reside in the home, and one of their daughters. It was good to be reminded of the respect and love the elderly should be given--and some ways to show it.
Donna Walters
A simple book that spans the lives of 4 main characters. It reminded me some of Steel Magnolias in a nursing home setting. Being a nurse I could definitely relate to Lorrane. The middle was a little slow without any major events happening but isn't that how life is sometimes? Certainly a great first novel for Todd Johnson. His rendition of The Color Purple on Broadway hit it out of the park and drew me to read this book.
Mar 21, 2015 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took forever for me to get into this book which is unusual for me. Once I got going, I felt like I was waiting for something to happen. The relationships between the different characters was touching, but as soon as I started to feel a connection a large time period had elapsed and those characters had completely changed or (because this focuses on a nursing home) died. I found myself crying at some points, perhaps because I have an 80 year old mother; she is still fairly sharp and living on ...more
Feb 27, 2009 Kathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good new author for me. I loved the voices of the women - in fact, I read about half of the book thinking that the author was a woman! I had a similar experience years ago when I read She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb. I don't compare Todd Johnson to Mr. Lamb, who is one of my all-time favorites, but it always amazes me when a man can speak in the voice of a woman. This book is certainly worth reading.
Mary (BookHounds)
Apr 22, 2009 Mary (BookHounds) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
I loved this book! This is what "The Help" should have been. Although not as historical as "The Help", this thoroughly captivated me and had the underlining current of classism in the South. Excellent dialogue and well drawn characters kept me turning the pages.
Dec 12, 2009 Margaret rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found it to be interesting. I had recently observed people like
the characters when my Dad was in a nursing home. Todd Johnson understands these women and finds the humor, emotions, and attitudes toward death and dying which seem accurate to me.
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Mansfield Public ...: The Sweet By and By Review by Sharon Wapen 1 3 Jul 31, 2013 07:42AM  
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Todd Johnson's bestselling first novel THE SWEET BY AND BY received the 2010 Connecticut Book Award. The novel was also named a PEOPLE "Great Reads For Your Book Club" Pick, a REAL SIMPLE "Entertainment Selection," and a 2010 Books-A-Million Book Club selection.

Johnson has been a teacher and session singer in New York City and received a Tony Award nomination as a producer of THE COLOR PURPLE on B
More about Todd Johnson...

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“I think the trick is knowing where you're supposed to be, and lettig go of everything else long enough to be there.” 8 likes
“Risin up, when you’re weak, makes a person stronger. By standin, thery’re saying that [she] matters, and they matter too. I feel better when I think about how showin respect to one person makes every person makes every person worth more.” 6 likes
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