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4.6 out of 5 stars
Sweetgrass
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Sweetgrass is a former plantation that has been in the Blakely family for generations. Twenty-first century urbanization now threatens the Carolina Lowlands, and Sweetgrass is one of the few remaining marshy areas along the Eastern Seaboard.

When family patriarch Preston Blakely suffers a crippling stroke, the family begins to divide over the devastating choices to be made for the land's future. Prodigal son, Morgan, returns from a long hiatus from the family to find his aunt and brother-in-law ready to sell Sweetgrass to a development company, for the family's good, of course.

Monroe guides the reader through the Blakely-family's struggle to survive illness, economic dilemmas, and the ever-growing pressure of urban sprawl. Each character faces the challenges of growth, and the story spans numerous facets without overwhelming the reader. This novel only seems lacking in some aspects of Morgan's story, which could have been flushed out with only a little more effort.

With her usual lush writing, Mary Alice Monroe delivers another emotional punch, while opening readers' eyes to very real issues.

-C.W.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Sweetgrass, named for the grasss that is grown in the area, is a very special piece of land that has been in the Blakely family for eight generations but is now in danger of being lost forever and replaced by housing developments.

Mary June is torn about her feelings about losing Sweetgrass. She has many happy memories about the land but there are also some tragedies that haunt her.

Preston, Mary Junes husband, is ill and is not able to fight for the land that has meant so much to him.

Nan, living in a marriage that has held her back is now beginning to see how much her family and legacy means to her.

Morgan, the long lost son, returned out of obligation to his family to help out but soon figures out that Sweetgrass is in his blood and he must fight to keep it.

Against them all is Hank, Nans husband and Adele, Prestons sister. They both are willing to do just about anything to get Sweetgrass for themselves to develop.

Mary Alice Monroe once again writes an uforgettable story set in the South Carolina Low Country that tells of love, forgiveness, and the strengh of a family.

If you are a fan of southern fiction, there are few authors who evoke the kind of love and effection for this very special land like Mary Alice Monroe does. Treat yourself to this book, or any of her other titles such as - Plantation or The Beach House and you will not be sorry.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2005
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I ordered this book for my mother's birthday and she loved it! Now I am reading it and find the story oh so southern (like Mom) and so very charming. The characters come right out of any small southern town with all the family issues one who expect and include: greed, love, devotion and the return of the prodigal son. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys this type of reading.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Just beneath the surface of this lovely Southern family saga is an impassioned plea to halt the widespread development that is threatening to destroy the flora and fauna of South Carolina's rich Low Country forever.

The story of Sweetgrass, a typically Low Country estate that has been in the Blakely family for centuries, is rich and lush just like the land. But woven neatly within the chapters is another story: that of the women of the Low Country who have been making baskets from the native sweetgrass from time immemorial. Both their art and the grass that supplies it is threatened, and if the sweetgrass goes, so goes the timeless culture of this unique part of the country.

I admit to being a Low Country wannabe. I have never been there in person, so I read authors like Mary Alice Monroe and countless others who tell its story so well. But nobody is as impassioned as Monroe. Yes, the story of the family, the patriarch felled by a stroke, the prodigal son who comes home to heal both himself and his father, the matriarch hiding a painful secret, the embittered sister-in-law intent on selling the land to developers, all of that is a magnificently interesting tale.

But the story of the sweetgrass in danger is even more compelling, and made me want to take action--whatever I can do--to save it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the story of a family complete with devastating secrets, betrayal, hope, redemption and renewal. Though these themes are common among what we readers term "southern fiction" rarely is it done so well as it is done in this book. Mary Alice Monroe follows in the footsteps, as do many of her contemporaries, of the great Pat Conroy and while her books do not attain that level of excellence she is certainly a gifted storyteller and talented writer who deserves the attention of those readers looking for a truly good book. Readers who have enjoyed Anne Rivers Siddons or Dorothea Benton Frank will find comfort and solace with Mary Alice Monroe.

Sweetgrass tells the story of the Blakely family and their lives at their plantation aptly named Sweetgrass. Their lives are interwoven with the Bennett family who once worked as slaves on that plantation, then became employees and now are companions to the family they once served. This is also the story of the power of matriarchs, for while the story centers on prodigal son Morgan and his quest to keep the family land from the hands of developers the story really belongs to the women. Mama June, Nona, and Adele drive this story and it belongs to them. I found that the female characters were much more realized than the males. The one thing that bothered me was the constant reference to Mama June and Nona age 66 and 69 respectively as old, matronly or elderly while Adele, aged 66, is not described in such terms. Just me, but I found this bothersome.

The descriptions of sewing Sweetgrass baskets was a nice touch and for those of us fortunate enough to own and value these pieces of art they were like a breath of fresh air. Sweetgrass baskets are very real and every bit as beautiful and unique as described in the novel.

All in all, I heartily recommend this book to one and all.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Excellent beach read ! This is one book you do not want to put down. Lessons learned in life, love and racism. Writer brought characters and images to life. Reading this on the beach IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, you will see why.......
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2006
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This is a simply wonderful book, especially for summer reading. What great insight to family life.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Plodding melodrama bogged down by each characters lethargic reminiscence of earlier days that would have been better, could have been better"if only". If you've read the editor's review, you don't need to read the story, it's all been said, and much less painfully.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Wonderful book, I love all of Mary Alice Monroe's book and this was no exception.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book! It speaks so much to the development of our greatest Resources, People and traditions.
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