Johnson's bittersweet and often humorous hen-lit debut portrays the lives of five very different Southern women: compassionate Lorraine, bossy Margaret, grief-stricken Bernice, ambitious April and brusque Rhonda. At the center of this character-driven novel is Lorraine, a nurse at the nursing home where Margaret and Bernice live. As the three women drift into friendship, hairdresser Rhonda arrives to take a part-time job, and the older women begin to change her life. Lorraine's daughter, April, meanwhile, is also gradually drawn into the circle. The story unfolds slowly over decades and life milestones, giving the characters plenty of time to reveal themselves. Johnson has a sure ear for Southern speech, though the dialect can become tiresome, and the narrative's lack of plot makes the novel feel overlong. Nevertheless, the underlying message of the power of love and friendship resonates, as does its depiction of the way in which people leading unremarkable lives can have a tremendous impact on those around them. (Mar.)
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“I am in love with this book -- the language, the story, the sass. Five women bickering, judging, loving, growing old together. You won’t stop laughing, even when your heart is hurting. Keep a pencil close -- you’ll be underlining all your favorite, funny lines.” (Kathryn Stockett, The Help)
“The women of The Sweet By and By have found a devoted muse in Todd Johnson.” (Alice Walker)
“Read The Sweet By and By…Johnson explores the lives of five Southern women who are unexpectedly connected to each other. While most of the action takes place in a nursing home, their stories never fall short of livelihood. Think of it as Steel Magnolias meets The Golden Girls.” (Real Simple, "Entertainment Picks")
“Give Todd Johnson an “A”…He made me laugh and cry…Johnson’s...five women...are as convincing as Reynolds Price’s Kate Vaiden and Allan Gurganus’ Lucy Marsden. From the first page they step into your life and start talking pure Southern music.” (Raleigh News & Observer)
“Bittersweet and often humorous...Johnson has a sure ear for Southern speech...the underlying message of the power of love and friendship resonates, as does its depiction of the way in which people leading unremarkable lives can have a tremendous impact on those around them.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Heartfelt and stunning…Mr. Johnson paints a lush portrait of Southern life in vivid detail with clarity and wit. You will be riveted by the story of a group of unlikely friends, five North Carolina women bonded by their shared histories, passions and secrets. It’s a genuine page turner.” (Adriana Trigiani)
“Save a place for this debut novelessentially a hymn of praise for licensed practical nurses (LPNs)…Johnson does a fine job of illustrating the rich inner lives of those imprisoned by failing mental or physical health…Strongly recommended.” (Library Journal)
“Nothing short of amazing . . . I had a whole new perspective on both living and dying after reading this stunning novel.” (Birmingham News)
“Packed with so much poignancy readers might want to keep tissues handy…heartfelt…realistically portrays the challenges the elderly face and captures the authentic voices of these five very different women. This is a novel not to be missed.” (Las Vegas Review Journal)
“Gentle, sensitive...sometimes funny, occasionally sad, and ultimately life-affirming… Johnson has done an admirable job of making each woman distinct and memorable…the reader will have a clear picture of each in mindand will feel fond of them..a fine debut. I look forward to seeing what Johnson writes next.” (Winston-Salem Journal)
“Poignant.” (Raleigh News & Observer)
“My favorite book of the past few months . . . As Johnson reveals these women to readers, you discover that he has captured the very souls of women we all know, respect and love.” (Greensboro News & Record)
“Fans of Fried Green Tomatoes will fall headlong into this humorous and heartfelt story . . .The cast handles the profusion of drama, tragedy, humor, and romance with some of the best narration listeners will find anywhere.” (AudioFile Magazine, on the audio edition)