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The Sweetest Hallelujah

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  1,482 ratings  ·  257 reviews
An unforgettable story of two courageous women brought together by one extraordinary little girl

Betty Jewel Hughes was once the hottest black jazz singer in Memphis. But when she finds herself pregnant and alone, she gives up her dream of being a star to raise her beautiful daughter, Billie, in Shakerag, Mississippi. Now, ten years later, in 1955, Betty Jewel is dying of
Paperback, 352 pages
Published July 30th 2013 by Harlequin MIRA (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  1,482 ratings  ·  257 reviews

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Dale Harcombe
Jan 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
The blurb on the front which said ‘for fans of The Help’ almost put me off reading this book. I hate being told a book is like another. This is not The Help but it is a very good book.
I was into this story from the first sentence. Billie is a child that eavesdrops on conversations and doesn’t always tell the truth, but she is a delight. She is so full of spunk. She captures your heart, especially given the circumstances she has in her life, which consist of a mother who is dying of cancer and a
Sep 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Predictable and trite. All of the racial problems of the 50's in the South are evident throughout the book but seem to just vanish at the end of the story.
Chicken Little
Jul 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
This is an entertaining, although unrealistic book. In 1955 there was a law that made possible for a white person to legally adopt a black child, so that's perfectly fine. No problems there.

What is hard to believe however, even for a work of fiction, is how Cassie breezed through everything... Really??? This is Mississippi in the 50s!! And the worst that happened to Cassie was a racial slur on her immaculate front porch?! It's ludicrous. That was the time of the Emmett Till murder; the KKK was
May 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read_in_2013
What a disappointment. I found this to be so unrealistic and SO predictable. People previously mad at each other (with good reason, mind you) become the best of friends? In the age of Emmett Till and the KKK, the reader is supposed to believe a white woman legally adopts a black child effortlessly? We're supposed to believe that two women who loved the same man become best friends? The dialogue between these two groups of people is so so sweet it gave me a cavity and not in a good way.

This book
Dec 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, january, 2014
I found the characters engaging and interesting but the writing was just not very good. Particularly annoying was the forced "magical realist" element--did you know every time something bad or ominous is about to happen, people hear blues music and smell barbecue? It got to be tedious.

The story was a little too neat for my liking too. The resolution was far too easy. The story takes place in the south during a racially charged time of the 1950s, yet the racial divide seems a little too easy to
Nancy Wilson
Sep 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
After thinking about this over the night I decided that I needed to do a much more detailed review. When I first started reading this I thought ahh To Kill A Mockingbird, but no, then as I moved on I equated it with The Help--but no. This is not a bad book, it is a nice read, BUT it lacks the detail and "rounding" of characters that would make it a GREAT book. The timeline brings up all sorts of unaddressed questions; the abrupt acceptance of the principle issue seems false and the ignorance of ...more
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star-books
WOW!!! This is a story that reaches your heart and leaves an imprint for sure!
Set in Mississippi in the late 50's/early 60's when racial tension over segregations and whites helping blacks to register to vote, is the story of a 30-something white woman journalist who reads an ad in the paper about a black woman who is dying and is asking for help for her 10-yr-old daughter.
A great cast of characters, a great story that I'll remember for a very long time.
If you've read The Help, I think you'd
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
While unrealistic about the racial tension throughout the United States and more specifically Mississippi, I found The Sweetest Hallelujah to be a good story and adored Billie for her spunk, Betty Jewel for her courage and Cassie for thinking four women could start making a change. "The simple gestures - water when you're fain, blankets when you're cold, a hand when you're falling - tell of friendships so strong they could withstand anything, even long-held secrets.
Angelique Simonsen
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
A really beautiful story. I loved the friendship that blossomed between Cassie and Betty jewel. Brought me to tears but and the same time made me feel so happy.
Jun 30, 2014 rated it liked it
I'm a sucker for any book that tackles race relations, especially in America in the South before or during the civil rights movement. Some have compared this book to the immensely popular book "The Help" and I did see many similarities. Some have also called this another "white savior" book, which was a complaint that was made about "The Help". African Americans, poor and mistreated, come to rely on an angel in the form of a white woman who breaks racial barriers and risks her life, limb and ...more
May 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book on Netgalley from the publisher in return for an honest review*

Elaine Hussey is a writer, actress and musician who likes to describe herself as “Southern to the bone.” She lives in Mississippi, where her love of blues and admiration for the unsung heroes of her state’s history served as inspiration for The Sweetest Hallelujah.

I enjoyed reading this book but it failed to leave a big emotional impression though all the ingredients where
Aug 02, 2013 rated it liked it
I didn't find this book "trite" or predictable, except the fact that Betty Jewell is going to die. Her desire to place her daughter Billie with someone after she's gone is the impetus for placing an ad in the local Tupelo Mississippi paper pleading for someone willing to raise her daughter which sets off a racist backlash against the women in the story. Cassie Malone a reporter for the paper, and grieving childless widow decides to do a story about Betty Jewell and Billie. She ends up friends ...more
Jaime Lee
This was an excellent book. The setting, dialect and themes of racial unrest were all very reminiscent of The Help, but easily stood alone inside this story. The added emotional pull that came from the tale of a dying mother, Betty Jewel, who desperately wanted to find the best life possible for her little girl, Billie, was both heart-wrenching and thought-provoking. The third point to the triangle of main characters came in the form of spunky widow Cassie Malone, who unknowingly stumbled upon ...more
Jul 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Betty Jewel, dying of cancer, is looking for someone to care for her 10 year old daughter, Billie. Someone who is NOT the child’s father. Shakerag, Mississippi, in the middle 1950’s, is a hotbed of racial unrest. When a white journalist hears Betty Jewel’s story and appears to want to raise the black child, both women are in danger.

This is a wonderful story with plenty of twists and turns to keep the plot moving along. The characters are real, speak truly
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I didn't really like my bookclub's last pick, so I was dreading reading this one.

However, I was hooked within the first couple of pages!

This is the story of a little black girl, Billie, whose single mother is dying from cancer (most people would say the story is about the mother, Betty Jewel, but the whole story revolves around Billie, so I see it a little differently). The year is 1955 and the place is the South; so racial tensions are very high.

Billie's mother places an ad in the paper for
Sharon Chance
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
With the many acknowledgements of the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, there are many books being released that address the atmosphere and the effects the movement had on people at the time. Author Elaine Hussey takes her readers deep into the heart of Mississippi through the story of one little girl and how a group of women, black and white, banded together to give her a home in her new book, “The Sweetest Hallelujah.”

Hussey creates a story that will resonant with
Harlequin Books
"This novel could have easily spanned another hundred pages and readers would have willingly stayed along for the ride. The issue of race and the consequences of pursuing an interracial friendship are at times hard to stomach, but provide an accurate view of life in 1955 Mississippi. Hussey does a good job of speaking from the perspective of a dying African-American woman, an African-American child and a Caucasian woman; though different in background and circumstance, Hussey merges their ...more
Aug 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Loved this book! I could feel the heat and the mosquitoes, smell the barbecue and fried chicken and see the town, the poor part and the rich part! The characters were interesting and fairly believable. The racial tensions just sort of simmered in the background but never boiled over. That is how it was in my hometown also. AS blacks and whites got to know each other, the tensions just eased away. IN the end we are all just people who care about our families.....I recommend this book!
Tricia Rogers
May 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
Started out with good, interesting story line and strong characters BUT then it just fizzled. Not to spoil the plot or anything but due to the various circumstances they were facing, one in particular, the friendship between Betty Jewel and Cassie was too quick and too easy. From there on out just ribbons and fluff. Disappointing.
Kelda Giavaras
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to love this book, but it just lacked a depth that I was expecting. Many of the characters were not well developed. I also felt that the racial tension of Mississippi in the 1950's was just glossed over. If you were a fan of The Help of To Kill A Mockingbird, this book will unfortunately come up short for you.
Nov 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
This books had a big helping of "Beaches", a heaping cup full of "the Help". a dash of "Dream with little Angels", and a light sprinkling of Steel Magnolias, garnished with some Fannie Flagg vernacular.
Nov 13, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club, 2013
The idea was good, but the execution was poor. The writing was stiff and not engaging, and the characters were flat.
Katelynn Price
Dec 16, 2013 rated it did not like it
This book was not my favorite. Not that it didn't have a good plot, I just thought that the writing was not the best. Too many cliche sayings for my taste.
Aug 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book had such potential, but fell short.
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was looking forward to this book but was sorely disappointed. After a few pages I could tell something was "off" with the African American characters. I kept saying to myself, "she wouldn't say that" or "that's not how he would think." They all seemed stereotypically written. A peek at the back cover jacket confirmed my suspicions that this book was not written by someone who had experienced racism first hand. This book has the glossy finish of how the author wished the 1950s in the South ...more
Kathy Broadnax
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Truly enjoyed the storyline of the book. A story of a 10 year of girl named Billie, whose mother was a jazz singer named Betty Jewel. Betty Jewel is dying and need someone to take care of Billie when she dies. Queen, her mother is in her 80s and she doesn't want to burden her anymore. Betty Jewels' friends would like to help but they have their own families to care for even though they are willing to help too. Betty Jewel places an ad in the paper in Shakerag, Mississippi seeking someone to care ...more
Gold Dust
Aug 13, 2019 rated it liked it
It’s a sweet story, but it’s unrealistic that a woman would become such good friends so soon with someone who did the sin she did. And what’s the explanation for why the white woman doesn’t hold any of the racist views that everyone around her holds?
Another unrealistic thing: Betty Jewel’s family is supposed to be poor. No one in the family is ever working a job, and yet her mother is somehow always cooking lots of pies or holding a “plate piled with chicken” (238). Where do they get the money
Nov 15, 2018 rated it liked it
There was a lot of skimming this one. It was far too long and dragged for most of the book. We understand that Betty is dying of cancer and needs to get someone to raise Billie. That shouldn’t take 300 pages. And the treatment of race relations in the south was more like an afterthought or an annoyance, not any kind of true representation of what was actually going on.
Erica Gillette
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Every once in a while a book touches my heart. This one was simply incredible!

"To live abundantly, you have to race toward the future with arms and heart wide open. You have to risk everything and let the universe take care of the details."

"... laughing through your troubles is just another way of showing your faith."

Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Sweet book

The characters in this book was touching. The author showed the depth of covering death and the love of a child caught in the middle of adults trying to find a common ground through love. I thought the friendship between Cassie and Betty Jewel was precious. Definitely a three tissue book.
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Elaine Hussey is a writer, actress and musician who likes to describe herself as “Southern to the bone.” She lives in Mississippi, where her love of blues and admiration for the unsung heroes of her state’s history served as inspiration for The Swe etest Hall elujah . Visit her at
“To live abundantly, you have to race toward the future with arms and heart wide open. You have to risk everything and let the universe take care of the details” 8 likes
“She gave thanks for the grace that pours down when you least expect it-and wasn't that just another name for love?” 3 likes
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