Tina's Reviews > The Sweet Gum Tree

The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred
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's review
Jun 24, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: z2011-reads, romance-contemporary
Read on June 24, 2011

As I was reading this book I was thoroughly enjoying it. However it is very, very similar in both style, structure and almost plot-point by plot-point to an earlier book, A Place to Call Home. Now, A Place to Call Home is a slam-dunk 5-star read that has a proud and permanent home on my favorites shelf. So you can imagine the sort of mental reverb I got while reading this book. The problem is that when I (inevitably) do the side by side compares of the two books, this one suffers in comparison on every level.

So when I finally sat down to write out my thoughts about this book, I really had to force the other book out of my mind. I had to pretend that i had never read it if I wanted to do an objective assessment of this book. Because if I didn't do that sort of mental sleight-of-hand this book would be a 3-star, 'I liked it' read.

On it's own merits, though, this book is really quite enjoyable. I have read other Katherin Allred books and none of them suggested she had this book in her. They were pleasant, contemporary romances but even as I type this, I can't recall the names of the two books of hers that I've already read. They simply don't jump out of the pack. This one definitely does though.

The first part of the book is the strongest. It is written in first person, almost like a memoir, of the main female character Alix French. She is reminiscing about her young life as a privileged 8-year old in a wealthy, well known family in a small southern town. Her grandfather has a profound effect on young Alix and she follows him around and hero worships him. He is with her the day she meets (and decides to rescue) 10 year old Nick Anderson. He is the poor, outcast son of the town drunk.

What follows is the story of them growing up, their days in school, how Nick slowly becomes a member of Alix's family and how they fall in love when they become teenagers.

The book is awash in drama and melodrama and lots of secrets and betrayals. There are some laugh out loud bits and some eye rolling bits but through it all it feels like a very authentic slice of life, coming of age romance. It is nicely written and features memorable and well crafted supporting characters as well.

But this is not a 5-star favorite for me for a couple of reasons.

First, I had a strong visceral (negative) reaction to the author's repeated over-use of the prophetic, had-I-but-known, foreshadowing she ended Every.Single.Chapter with. It added nothing to the book and in fact worked to lessen some of the dramatic impact. It was almost comical -- and not in a good way.

Second, I found Nick a very problematic hero. He had all the makings of an Alpha but in fact, and in action, he was anything but. He was too reactive and everything seemed to happen to him. I kept waiting for him to do something sometimes. But he never did -- well at least not to my satisfaction.

And finally, a major plot point could have been cleared up by two people simply talking to each other. Alix Knew Nick was keeping a secret, Nick knew he was keeping a secret the person whose secret Nick was keeping knew. But just because everybody kept their traps shut a lot of heartache happened. I can buy the need the for heartache, just not the method for making it happen. I thought it was a flimsy device and not worthy of this book.

All in all thought this is a really good book and a nicely written love story. I recommend. I also recommend reading A Place to Call Home as a companion.
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Reading Progress

15.0% "LOL at her mother giving her The Talk @age 12 but muddling it up until finally her mother "shoved a book called Becoming a Woman into my hand and ran."" 1 comment

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