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Cold Sassy Tree

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The one thing you can depend on in Cold Sassy, Georgia, is that word gets around--fast.

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.

391 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1984

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About the author

Olive Ann Burns

13 books356 followers
Olive Ann Burns was a professional writer, journalist, and columnist for most of her life. She published two novels, one posthumously, and for many years was a staff writer for Atlanta newspapers and the Atlanta Journal Magazine. Her most notable achievement was "Cold Sassy Tree", a novel that describes rural southern life and a young boy's coming-of-age at the turn of the century.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,398 reviews
Profile Image for Ebookwormy1.
1,784 reviews257 followers
December 27, 2018
For years, I had heard the best American novel set in the South was "Gone with Wind" or "To Kill A Mockingbird," or more recently, "The Help" and certainly these books have their contribution to literature (you can read my reviews if you'd like), but BY FAR, my favorite book ever set in the Southern United States is this one and only gem by the lovely Olive Ann Burns. A joy to read, and re-read, and share with all your friends, I give you my review of a story that is a treasured friend...

After reading the book jacket, I approached this recommendation with a "hrmph", as my mind jumped ahead to hurl the first sentence of my review: "life was pretty good in the south after the Civil War as long as you weren't black or poor." Quite frankly, I had been wrestling with the injustice of racism and was in no mood either appreciate the segregated culture of the south in which it persisted, or to see it romanticized.

But then I started reading, and I was captivated. The humor of the story and the joy of life of the characters gave the book a clean feel of a simpler time as it unwound from the pages to ensnare my heart with a great, grand, ole yarn. Yet at the same time, running like a deep aquifer alongside a jolly racing blue thread of a river, themes about death (young, old, suicide are all covered), grieving, God, love gained and lost, abuse, depression and forgiveness are watering the story with a life that is penetrating to the soul. You might not notice it though, for all the fun in the visible flow of stories.

It is a sad reality that "colored folk" are an unalterable part of the setting and they are (true to life) pictured as a community apart that get the lower jobs. However, they are respected by the main characters for the contribution they make to their lives and their families. The theme of racism is not explored. References to the lost Civil War and glory of the confederacy are mentioned merely as the way of life at the time, not as ideas to be pondered, developed, or embraced. "White trash" is also touched upon as a class, and in many ways, treated worse than the colored folk.

The end of the book for me was a revelation of the deep ideas highlighting a tapestry of narrative and dialogue, and it stuck with me. I will remember the character of Grandpa, E. Rucker Blackslee for a long time... he challenged me during a difficult period of my life, and I think I'm better for it.

A note on recommendations. I highly recommend this book. The main characters include both male and female, I think both men & women would enjoy this read. However, because of a reference to abuse, which is tactfully dealt with, I would reserve the book for high school and above.

Gone with the Wind, Mitchell, 1936

To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee, 1960

The Help, Stockett, 2009

For a completely different subject by an author that reminds me of Olive Ann Burns diligent writing style poured into a few exceptional titles, see
City of Tranquil Light, Caldwell, 2010
Profile Image for ✨ Gramy ✨ .
1,382 reviews
September 13, 2019
I originally read this U.S. Historical fiction book about 20 years ago. My daughter had to read it for a school assignment, so we read it at the same time. We shared many a laugh over the shenanigans referred into this glimpse in a small southern town, Cold Sassy, Georgia and set in 1906. This timeless treasure explores themes such as religion, death, and social taboos, and certainly has the ability to entertain with hilarious wit and humor.

Grandpa teased her about it. "You look like you done swallored a goose aigg, Miss Mattie Lou, and it got stuck in yore goozle."

This story is told in the POV of a 14-year-old boy by the name of Will Tweedy. The reader is provided with intricate details, through his perception, about the events that encompassed this young's mans early life. Will reveals his brilliant imagination by making up stories and pulling pranks. He experienced many firsts, most notably driving the first two automobiles in the town. His dream was to become a successful farmer, which he was determined he could do with education at the A.G. College.

His patriarch grandfather, Rucker E. Blakeslee, is a most influential man in the small town and had a monumental influence in young Will Tweedy's life. Grandpa owns the general store and lives by his own rules. After his wife passes away, he creates quite a ruckus with his impetuous decisions. He favors Will Tweedy over others in the family and demands a lot from him in return. Will Tweedy certainly admired him, at least most of the time.

The setting was described vividly, the characters were well-developed,and the plot was captivating. This book was originally published in November 1984. I own the paperback book and have it on my Kindle. If you enjoy a good storyteller about southern fiction, this is well worth the time and effort to read. If you are looking for some chuckles and reminiscing of days gone by, you will also enjoy this immensely. I recommend it to one and all!
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,738 reviews1,469 followers
June 29, 2020
Do you enjoy a sweet story? Are you a religious person with deep faith? Do you enjoy books set in the South at the turn of the century? Then this book is probably a good choice for you.

My own response to the two first questions is not affirmative, and that is why I cannot give it more than two stars. No, it is not a bad book. It is fine, it’s OK………if a bit boring. Although it gives a pretty good depiction of small town life in Georgia, it says nothing about racial inequities which of course still remained after the Civil War. The whites certainly don’t see their black servants as their equals but they are not cruel. White Trash on the other hand are looked down upon, and many of the new inventions of that era are interwoven into the plot – cars, telephones, house plumbing and electricity. But it is all so cute.

This is not only a coming-of-age story, but also a story of how it is to grow old. How do you deal with that? Will is the central character. He tells the story about his grandfather and what he did when his grandmother died. Yup, he got married again, three weeks after her death! Now this is darn-right scandalous! What will people think?! But the question is why, and you learn the real answer to that throughout the rest of the book. Is Will the main character? Or is it his grandfather?Are the grandfather’s actions and the way he chose to live his life and his behavior towards all those around him that is the central focus of this book? I know what I think. I also know that it drove me crazy that everyone was most concerned with what other folks would say.

But you know what is right and what is wrong, and we all do when it comes down to the basics, so the book’s message is rather simple. Maybe you like uncomplicated feel-good stories. There are hypocrites galore in this book. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, but I will add that there is at least one that isn’t a hypocrite.

There must be some suspense in a book, right? Well, a few bombs are thrown in, but are they adequately explored? Or are they just thrown in for the effect?

OK, I have something really good to say about the book….. Well, at least the audiobook narrated by Tom Parker. The narration is excellent. You know immediately who is talking simply by the tone. Will never sounds like his grandfather. The women are prefect too. And Loomis, the black servant, he speaks just as he should. It is not hard at all to understand the Southern dialect.

Just one more thing…. I have read reviews that compare this book to Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”. One should never compare one book to another. No two books are ever the same in content or how they are written. Stupid me; I was thinking perhaps I would get another of Lee’s, and that hope made me so mad when it wasn’t fulfilled. I should have known better.
Profile Image for Julie G .
883 reviews2,753 followers
October 6, 2016
Cold Sassy Tree was Olive Ann Burns's debut novel, published as she turned 60, and I can tell you, she does not disappoint the reader. She was a seasoned writer, but not a novelist, and clearly, she knew how to tell a story.

This book represents everything I love about reading and writing. There's an "old school" feel here, an indescribable quality that takes me back to sitting in trees as a child, my back supported by the trunk and my young mind supported by whatever precious book I held propped in my hand.

What joy, to think about those days, and that joy is somehow captured here in this coming-of-age novel. It was written in 1984 (as I was sitting in those trees reading Carson McCullers), but the story takes place much earlier in the century.

I can't say that I can find fault with anything in this story. The plot, the developed characters, the author's successful use of Voice, the likable narrator. . . are all exceptional. And, if all of that is too mechanical for you, you can also find adventure, history, romance and religious and philosophical insights.

It was an absolute privilege to read it, and I'm thankful I discovered it as I was sick in bed with a bad cold.

Profile Image for La Tonya  Jordan.
289 reviews89 followers
March 20, 2022
The town of Cold Sassy Tree, GA in the summer of 1906 changed forever. This is the year Miss Mattie Lou Toy Blakeslee died and her devoted husband of over 4o years Enoch Rucker Blakeslee (grandpa Blakeslee) married Miss Love Simpson just three weeks after her death. Miss Mattie Lou not cold in her grave. Miss Love Simpson was a Yankee from Baltimore, MD and a woman young enough to be Mr. Blakeslee daughter. The gossip and the scandal that pursued. What was Miss Love's motive? What was Grandpa Blakeslee's motive? How much of Granpa's wealth was Miss Love after? Did Grandpa love Mrs. Mattie Lou? How much of this nonsense will Grandpa daughters put up with? Enjoy reading for this book is hilarious.

The characters are authentic from Miss Effie Belle to Cudn Hope to Hosie Roach to Mary Willis Blakeslee Tweedy to Uncle Camp to the narrator of the story a young boy of fourteen years old named Willis (Will) Tweedy. Will Tweedy grew up that summer. He was grandpa Blakeslee grandson and his favorite grandchild to all who knew him. This read, at the turn of the century, is about when life in small towns where emerging into what is now called the modern age. The people who moved it forward and those who did what they could to hold it back.


I could see how Miss Love could cheer up a man whose wife was short of breath for four years, dying for ten days, and dead for three weeks.

He was just a puppy when Papa took me to Atlanta to hear the president speak; I named him Theodore Roosevelt when I got home that day - then shortened it to T.R. so folks wouldn't think my dog was a Republican.

"You see any telephone poles in Cushie Springs, Grandpa?" He looked around. " Naw, but what's thet got to do with anythang?" "How can we telephone sir, if Cushie Springs ain't got no telephones?"

She was a huge fat woman. Grandpa Tweedy's third wife, and I liked her.
Profile Image for Cher.
801 reviews275 followers
March 26, 2016
1 star - I really hated it.

A long, boring soap opera about small minded, judgmental, gossipy people in a backwoods town that specializes in making a full blown scandal over every petty incident. It includes something for everyone: racism, sexism, chauvinism, religious prejudice, and "yankeeism". It is like an all you can read buffet of ignorance.

But there's something for the romantics too! A charming love story about a vile old adulterer, whom after lusting for years after a woman young enough to be his daughter, he finally marries her three short weeks after he buries his wife of decades. (Well he had to move fast in case "someone else got her first").

Thankfully I read this one via the audiobook version as it would have been an even slower and more painful read otherwise due to the thick southern vernacular:

If’n you’d a-got kilt, it’d mean you jest didn’t move fast enough, like a rabbit that gits caught by a hound dog.

Ain't the best prayin' jest bein' with God and talkin' a while, like He's a good friend, stead a-like he runs a store and you've come in a-hopin' to git a bargain?
Favorite Quote: To mourn is to be eaten alive with homesickness for the person.

First Sentences: Three weeks after Granny Blakeslee died, Grandpa came to our house for his early morning snort of whiskey, as usual, and said to me, "Will Tweedy? Go find yore mama, then run up to yore Aunt Loma's and tell her I said git on down here."
Profile Image for Megan.
178 reviews12 followers
February 10, 2009
My grandmother's favorite book of all time, so I have always wanted to read it. This is such a great book. It nearly ripped my heart out for making me think of my Grandmother. It is about a 14 year old boy in 1906 Cold Sassy, Georgia. The book centers on Will Tweedy's relationship with his grandfather and the small town scandal that begins when his grandfather remarries a young woman two weeks after his wife's passing. The narrative is so witty and touching and it is written in such a strong southern dialect that I found myself thing in terms of "dern it" and "I reckon"! I cried for the last 50 pages and wanted my Grandmother to be here to hug me and tell me she loved me at the end.
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,256 reviews451 followers
June 28, 2020
3.5 stars

I read this in 1984 when it was first published and remembered liking it, but not much more. This time around, I just felt sorry for the peripheral characters and the way they were bullied by Grandpa Blakesley. Loved the southern speech and dialogue, hated the small town gossip and conventions. Poor Miss Mattie Lou, dead three weeks in the first sentence, most poorly treated person in the book.
Profile Image for Barbara H.
692 reviews
July 6, 2020
This is the portrayal of the town of Cold Sassy, named for the huge Sassafras tree in its midst, which the inhabitants had frequently debated on renaming. The time period is set in the early 1900's in the South. Initially I was annoyed by the use of the local vernacular and associated grammatical errors, but I gradually adjusted to it and accepted that it was an effective and necessary factor to the telling of the tale.

The nub of the story is the coming of age of 14 year old Will. The plot developed slowly, but I became invested in the characters of Will and his family, especially his grandfather and his grandfather's second wife. Burns has also drawn a clear picture of his neighbors and friends. Typical of small town southern life there was the gossip, the exaggerated sense of morality and certainly the lack of privacy in actions and thoughts. It was impressive to view the development of historical events- first cars, first bathrooms, first running water, clothing and early motor cars. It was a simpler time in some respects, but a more difficult time because people had to do so much physical labor just to live and the lacked materials which are so prevalent in modern life..

Burns has blended much humor with periods of suspense and principals of wisdom. It is a lengthy book, but it contains much to draw in the reader. Members of my local book club enjoyed this with few exceptions and we had an extensive discussion period. Also of interest, was the fact that Olive Burns wrote this, her first book, at the age of 60!
Profile Image for Book Concierge.
2,770 reviews332 followers
December 3, 2018
Digital Audiobook performed by Grover Gardner

Thirteen-year-old Will Tweedy narrates Burns’ historical novel which takes place in the small Georgia town of Cold Sassy Tree circa 1906. It starts when his grandfather, E Rucker Blakeslee elopes with Miss Love Simpson. It’s a scandal, given that Blakeslee’s wife was buried just three weeks prior, that Miss Simpson is only half Blakeslee’s age, and even worse, Love is a Yankee!

Oh ,what a treat this novel is! The characters are richly drawn, and cover the gamut of personalities. I was completely engaged in the story from beginning to end, laughing aloud several times as I watched the residents engage in gossip and speculation. Change is a constant theme … from the personal relationships to the introduction of automobiles, the citizens of Cold Sassy Tree manage to adjust, sometimes with grace and other times with more than a little consternation.

Will is a wonderful observer with the curiosity of a young boy, especially when it comes to relationships between male and female adults. I loved the pranks he played and the tall tales he wove. And was touched by the tenderness of his first love.

Grover Gardner does a marvelous job performing the audio. He has a lot of characters to interpret and does a great job of Will Tweedy and Grandpa Blakeslee. He even does an acceptable rendition of the female voices.

Profile Image for Sonja Arlow.
1,080 reviews7 followers
February 4, 2019

There is something so charming about a book set in this bygone era of the South.

Where boyhood pranks involved setting loose a few rats during your Aunt’s play, where the highlight of your weekend is to go fishing with your friends and where the first motorcar will cause the whole town of Cold Sassy to stop and stare – including the livestock.

There is a sweet innocence to the story even if, at times, dark issues are discussed.

Will Tweedy’s family has had their share of heartache especially as the story starts just weeks after his grandmother passed away. And then scandal of all scandals are let loose. Will’s grandfather, the newly widowed Rucker Blakeslee elopes with Love Simpson, a woman so young she could have been one of his daughters. And nothing will ever be the same.

I really liked Mr Blakeslee as well as Love Simpson. Him for his grumpy old man persona that cracks just a little, and her for living life on her own terms while still operating within the boundaries set by society for women.

I wish that more time was spent with Lightfoot and her community. She is a linthead, or a poor white working in the cotton factory of the town. The kids are given 1 or 2 years of schooling at most before they are employed at the factory. She was unfortunately only a periphery character in Will Tweedy’s story.

This is one of those nice reads that you can breeze through with a smile on your face.
Profile Image for Emily.
23 reviews1 follower
April 13, 2007
I actually really liked this book, but I think I enjoyed the cultural and historical aspects of it more than the story, to be frank. Burns paints a wonderful picture of life in a small and changing southern town in the early 20th century. The depiction of the social tensions between the "lintheads" who work in the cotton mills and the rest of the town hit the nail on the head, in terms of the southern industrial mill era. We also see the coming of the automobile and the way that the town is still stuck in the Civil War. As a coming of age story, its pretty good, but I liked it more for the culture Burns evoked while writing about the town.
Profile Image for ✨Susan✨.
900 reviews175 followers
August 24, 2015
I enjoyed this book but it fell a little flat, it had some good parts but I was expecting more because of the outstanding reviews. The story is told out of the eyes of a young boy from a privileged family. All of the characters lead back to his Grandfather and his fortune. Just a little trite for me. I think I was ruined by the absolutely wonderful bestseller, "The Saving of CeeCee Honeycutt", another book set in the South.
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book489 followers
July 18, 2020
3.5 stars, rounded down.

Miss Mattie Lou is dead and her husband, Rucker Blakeslee, waits only three weeks before marrying the milliner who works at his store, Miss Love Simpson. The rest of the novel deals with the repercussions of this marriage, the development of the relationships between the new bride and the family, and the way this new view of his grandfather affects his grandson, Will.

I am generally fond of coming-of-age stories, and felt the story gained something from having the young Will as narrator. However, I felt his involvement in his grandfather’s intimate life highly unlikely for this time period, so some of it was a stretch for me. I know that the kind of adult conversations he was privy to, even those overheard lurking behind doors, would never have happened in my own childhood.

I felt we were meant to admire Rucker and find him entertaining, but at times I found him very distasteful in his dealings with his family members, particularly the son-in-law, Camp, who worked at his store. What was meant to be blunt and frank, often came across to me as crass and unfeeling. Sadly, I saw some of the same behavior developing in the grandson, whose pranks failed to make me smile because there was a kind of cruelty in them.

What I enjoyed about Cold Sassy Tree was the flavor of the South as it once was that was captured here and there. I recognized the small Southern town (Commerce, Georgia was much as described even when I was young), the railroad tracks that defined so many small towns in the South, and the descriptions of the Mill Town (my aunt lived in one and even though the mill had long been closed, the houses were the same small simple cubes with four rooms that opened into one another and a bathroom at the back).

The story began well, had a period of drag for me about midway, and then scuttled along to the end. I felt a bit conflicted when I finished, because while it might have been a good story, it was sort of meaningless. I couldn’t really think of any deeper meaning or anything any of these characters had learned that would have moved them forward, including Will. For me, that is one of the things that make a coming-of-age story work, that the narrator is generally wiser and more mature at the end than in the beginning...that some event has happened that has genuinely changed his understanding of life. I did not find that to be true at the end of this novel. I felt the Will we met in the first chapter was the same Will we said goodbye to on the last page.
Profile Image for Rachel Aranda.
879 reviews2,261 followers
October 9, 2018
“Cold Sassy Tree” is not a book that I would normally fall in love with. If I’m completely honest I can see myself being bored or annoyed with it if I had read this story at a wrong point in time. However, I didn’t and am so glad! The narration of Grover Gardner just added to my enjoyment. For me, he somehow got the accuracy of Southern women and men through various age ranges. I found myself laughing out loud a few times. I played some moments for friends and they laughed too. If you were going to listen to an audio version, I highly suggest the Grover Gardner version.

On the surface, the plot of this book was one reason I was a little worried I’d put this book off for so long. A short description of this book, if I had to put it in my own words, would be that it’s a coming of age story about a boy named Will Tweedy mixed with a family drama of a family coming to terms with the death of their matriarch and learning to accept the patriarch marrying someone else. It is that description, but the layers are more complex that you can’t help but learn to feel for the characters somehow. I found myself thinking how this character or that character reminded me of a family member or friend that I have and certain events they did something similar. It’s interesting how family life doesn’t necessarily change over the centuries.

A lot of things happen to this family, including their newest one Miss Love Simpson, and they turned to Christianity quite often for guidance and offerings of peace. I found it sweet but also a little wearing as you couldn’t help but slow down and try to absorb the meaning of the words being written, but this is where things get a bit muddled for me. I loved the themes that Ms. Olive Ann Burns covers, and I think all of them were important and went well with the story of this family. However, I did also feel like Ms. Burns was trying to cover too much and taking the story in too many directions with Miss Love’s secret, family and community opposing the marriage, Will trying to sort out family expectations with his own dreams. Not that it decreased the story's beauty for me; it just left me wondering a lot of times where this was going and if it could have been “more” somehow.

Besides from the main plot which was very interesting and compelling, “Cold Sassy Tree” fascinated me with its writing and thoughtfulness into tough topics like differences between black and white “servants,” religious views, purity, death, and even progresses that move toward the future but leave the past behind. A fair warning that this book is very Christian faith heavy, so if you aren’t into that then that may hamper your enjoyment of the story. I also adored how the book talked about a family in the deep South during the early 20th century (1906 to be exact). I haven’t read a book that focused on a family just living day to day life in a long time. Pretty sure that’s why I enjoyed the writing so much. It might seem boring seeing how electricity, rotary telephones, bathrooms inside the house, and indoor plumbing were things that were growing to become standard but weren’t quite there yet. In short, I think I need to read more family-oriented books in developing areas more often.

I read it at the perfect time because I was able to oversee the silliness of this book’s characters and their decisions, and I was able to completely fall in love with the story gradually as I got more and more into it. A strong 4.5 star rating for this delightful and surprising audiobook. This is definitely in the running for my favorite audiobook of 2018.
Profile Image for Shiloah.
Author 1 book169 followers
March 4, 2020
This was an amazing book! I read it with my dear friend Elizabeth Laumas, which I feel just added to the enjoyment of it as we shared our thoughts chapter by chapter. And this is a book that takes you to different “places” chapter by chapter.
This is not just a book about a family in a Southern town around the turn of the century. This is a book about gossip and overcoming its affects. It’s a book about relationships and acceptance. It’s a book about understanding God. It’s a book about love and life and death. It was a healing book on many levels. I don’t often cry while reading books—it takes a special book and a gifted writer. I cried and I laughed during my experience with this book. This one of my new favorite books. I will definitely re-read it. And I’m so grateful this amazing author wrote during her convalescence from cancer. I’m also grateful she helped influence it’s sequel before she passed. What a treasure this book is. Now I must read the other book.
Profile Image for Amy.
936 reviews234 followers
April 21, 2021
People have told me about this old favorite for quite a long time, and turns out I even had a copy in my house! (So aged, that it fell apart as I read it. I had to throw parts of it away in chunks as I read it.) Its been on my TBR for four years, and because of the Trim challenge I finally got to read it! I really loved it. I thought it was charming. A young boy's perspective about his grandfather, his family, and the town. Again, charming is the word for it. Well done, and worth the wait.
Profile Image for Katrina.
395 reviews101 followers
September 6, 2019
An entertaining book set in Cold Sassy, Georgia, this is a story that accurately depicts life in the south with lingering post Civil War hurts and lifestyles. The audio narration was fantastic. It is a coming of age story for Will but also a love story and family drama with a bit of comedy sprinkled throughout. There are those who will dislike this book because of the religion and racism that is portrayed. It's frustrating to read I agree, but I also think that's how we as a society can learn from our past mistakes. Don't just fill your mind with things that you agree with!
Profile Image for John Warner.
753 reviews23 followers
July 31, 2020
In July, 1906, Grandpa Blakeslee, successful farmer and businessman, shocks his two daughters and many of the townspeople of Cold Sassy Tree, Georgia, when he announces his intentions to marry in short order Miss Love Simpson, a milliner employed at his general store. Now, there were two reasons that this news was sending shock waves throughout the small community. One, besides the fact that Miss Simpson, was from the North, was that she was twenty years his junior, he being 59 and Miss Simpson in her late 30s or approximately the same age as his daughters. The second reason, probably more shocking, was the fact that Grandpa Blakeslee had only been a widower for three weeks since his beloved Mattie Lou died from a lengthy illness. Why...that violated the proper social rules for mourning.

The events in Cold Sassy Tree that summer is told from the perspective of our novel's protagonist, Will Tweedy, a 14-year-old and grandson of the cantankerous subject of the town's gossip. It is a stretch to call this novel a coming-of-age story since it takes occurs over only a few months, but our protagonist learns much about what it means to be a family, the dangers of gossip, and the mercy of God's grace. As one would expect with a 14-nearing-15 adolescent, there is a number of humorous moments in store for the reader, even, if hard to believe, an encounter with a train on a trestle. If you grew up with or enjoy reruns of the Andy Griffith Show, I would recommend this frequently humorous but yet poignant short novel set in a small northeast Georgia town in simpler times.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
431 reviews27 followers
December 2, 2022
I enjoyed this study of Georgia and her people dating from the late 1800’s into the early 1900’s. It was a story of a small town, of family, of gossip and scandal, of lines drawn and sometimes crossed, and modernization making changes in people’s lives. Will was an excellent storyteller and a pretty good kid despite some shenanigans. His Grandpa was wise and sassy. I liked him a lot. I feel like I know them and I am part of the family. It’s going to be weird not to hear their voices anymore.
Profile Image for Tiffany.
267 reviews3 followers
May 23, 2008
I can't believe Janette only gave this book 3 stars! I love this book, it's so delightful, the characters are so human with their fears, and pettiness and prejudices and lusts. It had a lot of humor in it as well, like when the grandpa decided eloped with the millner (hat maker) 2 weeks after the grandma died, and his excuse was, "she's as dead as she's ever gonna be!" But we didn't doubt his devotion to the grandma, because he completely lined her grave with cut roses from her rose garden. It's just a great book, and one of my favorites.
Profile Image for Jess the Shelf-Declared Bibliophile.
2,031 reviews588 followers
August 18, 2015
Wonderful work of Southern literature, set in Georgia in the late 1800s. I actually enjoyed this even more than I expected. It will definitely be a new love of mine, in the same ranks as Gone with the Wind!
Profile Image for Joan Bannan.
Author 8 books93 followers
August 26, 2017
Oh my! What a find. What a great book! I need to look up which of my Goodreads friends reviewed this and brought it to my attention. Thank you! I joined Goodreads because I HAVE to read and want to read great books. As I read the last page of this book, my first thought was, "I love Goodreads!"

At a time when we are questioning our reverence for Confederate history, this book brings to light the heart of Confederate humility and loyalty.

This is a story of a young man, Will Tweedy, as he sorts out family values, community prejudices, Christian assumptions, and his hope for the future in a changing society.

Will shares with us his dreams, his pranks, his mourning of a best friend, the loss of his grandmother, his being the first young man in his community to drive an automobile, and his first kiss. Central to Will's life is his Grandfather Blakeslee, who scandalizes the town when he marries a young, pretty woman, three weeks after his wife dies and saying, "Miss Mattie Lou was as dead as she'd ever be."

This book is adroitly written in such diverse ways. The story was captivating. The characters were well developed and lovable. The voice was amazing! I could not have done what this author did. She captured the voice of a young boy becoming a man and used the southern dialect in such a way that I fell into it. Found myself thinking in a "down-south, down-home" way. And yet, with very few exceptions I was able to follow the meaning in sentences without getting lost. I couldn't read as fast as I usual, but I got it. And I loved it.

This book would probably mean more to you if you are a Christian, but it's so great, I think you would love it even if you were not.
66 reviews2 followers
July 15, 2010
This book was an unsatisfying read. I found the story, particularly the main story of an old man and a middle-aged woman falling in love compelling and believable. However, the book had some major flaws, in my opinion.

1. The dialect is painful. "Cause if'n you do, or if'n you have a mind to after you git over bein' so mad at him, why, we could git this'n annulled. Folks in Cold Sassy will have a good time talkin', but if you go on off to Texas, why, you won't have to put up with nothin' on account of it. So you want to marry him or don't you? (177)"

2. The suicide scene is shocking, with no foreshadowing, and is completely without purpose. No one is changed by Uncle Camp's death. No one's character is further developed through it.

3. The book relied too heavily on the "overheard conversation" technique. Really, really beyond belief. Will overhears: declarations of love, revelations of rape and incest, discussions of theology, heavy petting, repentence for infedelity, reunions of lovers, confessions of past sins, among other things.

4. The message that organized religion was always wrong, and that any rebellion against it was to be considered correct and common sense wearied me after a while.

The back of the book said, "Not since To Kill a Mockingbird has a novel so deftly capture the subtle crossscurrents of small-town southern life." Hmmm. . . I think this book is miles, miles away from To Kill a Mockingbird in just about every category.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Irishcoda.
171 reviews4 followers
September 13, 2008
There is so much to love about this book. The characters are vibrant, the language is rich and there are good life's lessons throughout--but it's not preachy. This is a story told with lots of humor although it does have it's tear-jerker moments. Young Will Tweedy is 14 at the turn of the century and is living in the town of Cold Sassy, Georgia. His grandfather causes an uproar in this sleepy little town by eloping with the beautiful young employee in his store. That's bad enough but what really sets the tongues to wagging is that Grandpa's first wife just passed three weeks ago and is barely cold in the grave. The events subsequent to this scandalous event changes Will's outlook on life forever. He has an "old" grandpa who is made young again by the pretty young wife and he himself begins to grow up as he romanticizes about women, kisses someone for the first time, and drives around town in his grandfather's new automobile. Thumbs both up!
Profile Image for Dawn (& Ron).
155 reviews29 followers
June 5, 2011
It is a shame the literary world lost the talents of Ms. Burns so early, but what a wonderful gem she left us. I first read this book years ago, only to learn that the author passed away while writing her follow up. This book still remains one of my all time favorites and it is the only other novel, besides "To Kill A Mockingbird", that weaves a spell, through a child's point of view, of a fading southern way of life. It shows both the idyllic southern childhood of a small town and the sadness of losing that innocence.

There is a follow up that uses her manuscript and outline but it pales from comparison and the loss of what we know is missing.
Profile Image for Numidica.
372 reviews8 followers
February 28, 2021
I love this book - such a loss that Olive Ann Burns died relatively young. I'll admit my opinion of it is influenced by the fact that it came to me by way of my favorite aunt and uncle, but it's a well told tale.
Profile Image for Chelsey.
249 reviews3 followers
July 22, 2015
I was extremely excited to read Cold Sassy Tree. Southern fiction is one of my absolute favorite genres and certainly close to my heart since I am from the South. I didn’t know anything about the book before reading the summary. Upon reading the summary, I anticipated a heavily plot driven story about the events after Mr. Blakeslee marries Miss Simpson.

The characters of Cold Sassy made the book for me, despite the fact I hated most of them. In a way, though, I think the reader was supposed to hate some of them. I felt like Mrs. Tweedy and Loma weren’t extremely developed, though I wouldn’t have liked them much more if they were. The dislike is not due to bad writing, it’s just the type of characters they are. Essentially, they are pretty much just like the rest of traditional, gossipy Cold Sassy, we are just supposed to feel more sympathy for them because they are related to the narrator. Personally, I didn’t feel much for either of them.

Miss Love, Will, and Grandpa stole the novel for me. Will irritated me to no end at many points in the story, but being a fourteen year old boy that doesn’t surprise me. He’s a bit hypocritical and makes some terrible awful choices, but I think in the end he has a good heart. Despite his made up stories and wishy washy opinions, I still felt for him and enjoyed reading him as a narrator. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t say much other than I think Miss Love is great. She’s a solid character and a feisty one too. She was easily the best character in the novel for me.

The rest of the cast was great too. Aside from Loma and Mrs. Tweedy, I felt even the minor characters, like Hosie, were developed and really made me care for them which is why I stuck it out to the end.

The plot was the most disappointing part of the novel for me. I had expected a whirlwind of events and scandals, but really not much happened in the book. I mean, sure, a few big events happened, but they weren’t played out at all. Something major would happen every 75 to 90 pages, the characters would react for a few paragraphs, and then everything would go right back to normal in the next chapter. Even the events that completely turned a character’s life upside down weren’t really described much. I felt like a few of the big events and reveals were unnecessary. They did nothing for the plot and were completely disregarded/barely mentioned for the rest of the novel. The few things that did happen that seemed to have a purpose still didn’t have much attention. The plot of this book is basically Will Tweedy eavesdropping on Miss Love and Mr. Blakeslee, not telling anyone what they said, and making up outlandish stories about Loma. That’s it. The other major “plot points” are hardly commented on by Will Tweedy. Maybe that’s what the author was going for, since he is a naïve, young narrator, but I just didn’t like it. The book moved slow and if it wasn’t for a few of my favorite characters it would have been much harder to finish.

The writing in the book fell short for me. There were some truly beautiful passages about love, loss, and even religion. However, the author’s use of foreshadowing was awful, overdone, and melodramatic. Nearly every chapter ended in some sort of variation of “but then everything would change.” Personally, I don’t care how much or how little foreshadowing an author uses, but at least use it subtly. Some of the chapters would be so captivating and interesting that I didn’t want to stop, but those lines of obvious foreshadowing always brought me back to reality with a sharp eye roll.

The chapters were also very strange. I’m one of those readers who likes for a chapter to represent a whole scene, plot point, or message. I’m not picky on length or even that the lengths match throughout the book, but it truly irks me when chapters end abruptly and then pick right back up at the same place. That coupled with the awful foreshadowing is probably the reason the novel didn’t get more than three stars. When a chapter ends suddenly and with a bold statement of foreshadowing then proceeds to pick back up right where the other chapter left off, it really draws back my focus. Like chapters eleven and twelve. They are literally the same event, the author just decides to end chapter eleven with some sort of bold statement and then on the next page continue the events of the story. Maybe I’m just being picky, but examples like that are what really took away from the story for me.

The southern dialect was a bit heavy handed. I’m from the south; believe me when I say I have family who speak exactly like the characters of the novel. It was still hard for me to understand at times, but it wasn’t terrible. There ended up being just a few sentences I had to reread a few times.

Despite all my complaints, I really did find a lot of the writing to be very lively and emotional. Some of the more intimate moments between Grandpa and Miss Love were touching, even bringing a tear to my eye. I thought the author did fantastic with giving the reader a small southern town feel. The descriptions of the town and the time period were vivid. There were times when I could really picture the town and people of Cold Sassy.

Overall, I was rather disappointed in this book. It didn’t live up to my expectations. I had really hoped for a very exciting story with a lot of town gossip, witty characters, and unpredictable events. Still, I was satisfied with what I got. What Cold Sassy Tree lacks in action it almost makes up for with its charm. The characters I did like, the descriptions, and the heartfelt moments made this book still worth reading.


Great portrayal of old, southern towns
Interesting characters
Some scenes will really stick with me

Terrible, melodramatic foreshadowing
Odd chapter format
Heavy southern dialect

Recommend: For people who enjoy character driven stories, stories with religion as part of the theme, and fans of southern fiction.
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