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Cold Sassy Tree Paperback – June 1, 1986

4.3 out of 5 stars 693 customer reviews

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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

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. I got something to say. And I ain't a-go'n say it but once't."
"Yessir."
"Make haste, son. I got to git on to the store."
Mama made me wait till she pinned the black mourning band for Granny on my shirt sleeve. Then I was off. Any time Grandpa had something to say, it was something you couldn't wait to hear.
That was eight years ago on a Thursday morning, when Grandpa Blakeslee was fifty-nine and I was fourteen. The date was July 5, 1906. I know because Grandpa put it down in the family Bible, and also Toddy Hughes wrote up for the Atlanta paper what happened to me on the train trestle that day and I still have the clipping. Besides that, I remember it was right after our July the Fourth celebration--the first one held in Cold Sassy, Georgia, since the War Between the States.
July 5, 1906, was three months after the big earthquake in San Francisco and about two months after a stranger drove through Cold Sassy in a Pope-Waverley electric automobile that got stalled trying to cross the railroad tracks. I pushed it up the incline and the man let me ride as far as the Athens highway.
July 5, 1906, was a year after my great-grandmother on the Tweedy side died for the second and last time out in Banks County. It was six months after my best friend, Bluford Jackson, got firecrackers for Christmas and burned his hand on one and died of lockjaw ten days later. And like I said, it was only three weeks after Granny Blakeslee went to the grave.
During those three weeks, Grandpa Blakeslee had sort of drawn back inside his own skin. Acted like I didn't mean any more to him than a stick of stovewood. On the morning of July 5th, he stalked through the house and into our company room without even speaking to me.
Granny never would let him keep his corn whiskey at home. He kept it in the company room at our house, which was between the depot and downtown, and came by for a snort every morning on his way to work. I and my little redheaded sister, Mary Toy, always followed him down the hall, and he usually gave us each a stick of penny candy before shutting the company room door in our faces. While our spit swam over hoarhound or peppermint, we'd hear the floorboards creak in the closet, then a silence, then a big "H-rumph!" and a big satisfied "Ah-h-h-h!" He would come out smiling, ready for the day, and pat Mary Toy's head as he went past her.
But this particular morning was different. For one thing, Mary Toy had gone home with Cudn Temp the day before. And Grandpa, instead of coming out feeling good, looked like somebody itching for a fight. That's when he said, "Will Tweedy?" (He always called me both names except when he called me son.) Said, "Will Tweedy? Go find yore mama, then run up to yore Aunt Loma's and tell her I said git on down here."
Lots of people in Cold Sassy had a telephone, including us. Grandpa didn't. He had one at the store so he could phone orders to the wholesale house in Athens, but he was too stingy to pay for one at home. Aunt Loma didn't have a phone, either. She and Uncle Camp were too poor. That's why I had to go tell her.
I ran all the way, my brown and white bird dog, T.R., bounding ahead. As usual when we got to Aunt Loma's, the dog plopped down on the dirt sidewalk in front of her house to wait. He couldn't go up in the dern yard because of the dern cats, of which there were eighteen or twenty at least. They would scratch his eyes out if he went any closer.
I found Aunt Loma sitting at the kitchen table, her long curly red hair still loose and tousled, the dirty breakfast dishes pushed back to clear a space. With one cat in her lap and another licking an oatmeal bowl on the table, she sat drinking coffee and reading a book of theater plays.
Mama never knew how often Aunt Loma put pleasure before duty like that. Mama liked to stay in front of her work. But then Loma was young--just twenty--and sloven.
When I told her what Grandpa said, she slammed her book down so hard, the cap leaped off the table. "Why don't you just tell him I'm busy." But even as she spoke she stood up, gulped some coffee, set down the cup still half full, and rushed upstairs to change into a black dress on account of her mother having just died and all. When she came down, carrying fat, sleepy Campbell Junior, her mass of red hair was combed, pinned up, and draped with what she called "my genteel black veil."
Campbell Junior pulled at the veil all the way to our house, and Aunt Loma fussed all the way. When we got there, she handed the baby over to our cook, Queenie, and hurried in where Grandpa was pacing the front all, his high-top black shoes squeaking as he walked.
I couldn't help noticing how in only three weeks as a widower he already looked like one. His dark bushy hair and long gray beard were tangled. The heavy, droopy mustache had some dried food stuck on it. His black hat, pants, and vest were dusty and the homemade white shirt rusty with tobacco juice. Granny always prided herself on keeping his wild hair and beard trimmed, his shirts clean, his pants brushed and "nice." Now that she was gone, he couldn't do for himself very well, having only the one hand, but he wouldn't let Mama or Aunt Loma do for him.
"Mornin', Pa," Aunt Loma grumped.
"Is that y'all, Will?" Mama called from the dining room, where she was closing windows and pulling down shades to keep out the morning sun. We waited in the front hall till she hurried in, her hair still in a thick plait down one side of her neck. I always thought she looked pretty with it like that--almost like a young girl. Mama was a plain person, like Granny, and didn't dress fancy the way Aunt Loma did every time she stuck her nose out of the house. Even at home Aunt Loma was fancy. She wouldn't of been caught dead in an apron made out of a flour sack, whereas Mama had on one that still read Try Skylark Self-Rising Flour right across the chest. The words hadn't washed out yet, which I was sure Aunt Loma noticed as she said crossly, "Mornin', Sister."
Taking off the apron as if we had real company, Mama said to me, "Son, you go gather the eggs, hear? With Mary Toy gone, you got to gather the eggs."
"Yes'm." My feet dragged me toward the back hall.
"Let them aiggs wait, Mary Willis," Grandpa ordered. "I want Will Tweedy to hear what I come to say. He'll know soon enough anyways." Then he stomped toward the open front door and put his hand on the knob as if all he planned to say was good-bye--or maybe more like he was fixing to put a match to a string of firecrackers and then run before they went off.
My mother asked, nervous-like, "You want us all to go sit in the parlor, sir?"
He shook his head. "Naw, Mary Willis, it won't take long enough to set down for." He took off his black hat and laid it on the table, pulled at his mustache, scratched through the white streak in his beard, and turned those deep blue eyes on Mama and Aunt Loma, his grown children, standing together puzzled and uneasy. When he began his announcement, you could tell he had practiced it. "Now, daughters, you know I was true to yore mother. Miss Mattie Lou was a fine wife. A good cook. A real good woman. Beloved by all in this here town, and by me, as y'all know."
Hearing Grandpa go on about Granny made my throat ache. Mama and Aunt Loma went to sobbing out loud, their arms around each other.
"Now quit yore blubberin', Mary Willis. Hesh up, Loma. I ain't finished." Then his voice softened. "Since yore ma's passin' I been a-studyin' on our life together. Thirty-six year we had, and they was good years. I want y'all to know I ain't never go'n forget her."
"Course you w-won't, Pa," said my mother, sobbing.
"But she's gone, just like this here hand a-mine." He held up his left arm, the shirt sleeve knotted as usual just below the elbow. Grandpa's blue eyes were suddenly glassy with unspilled tears. He struggled to get aholt of himself, then went on. "Like I said, she's gone now. So I been studyin' on what to do. How to make out. Well, I done decided, and when I say what I come to say I want y'all to know they ain't no disrespect to her intended." Grandpa opened the door wider. He was about to light his firecrackers.
"Now what I come to say," he blurted out, "is I'm aimin' to marry Miss Love Simpson."
Mama's and Aunt Loma's mouths dropped open and their faces went white. They both cried out, "Pa, you cain't!"
"I done ast her and she's done said yes. And Loma, they ain't a bloomin' thang you can do bout it."
Aunt Loma's face got as red as if she'd been on the river all day, but it was Mama who finally spoke. In a timid voice she said, "Sir, Love Simpson's young enough to be your daughter! She's not more'n thirty-three or -four years old!"
"Thet ain't got a thang to do with it."
Mama put both hands up to her mouth. With a sort of whimper, she said, "Pa, don't you care what folks are go'n say?"
"I care bout you carin' what they'll say, Mary Willis. But I care a heap more bout not bein' no burden on y'all. So hesh up."
Aunt Loma was bout to burst. "Think, Pa!" she ordered, tears streaming down her face. "Just think. Ma hasn't been d-dead but three w-w-weeks!"
"Well, good gosh a'mighty!" he thundered. "She's dead as she'll ever be, ain't she? Well, ain't she?"

From the Inside Flap

If the preacher's wife's petticoat showed, the ladies would make the talk last a week. But on July 5, 1906, things took a scandalous turn. That was the day E. Rucker Blakeslee, proprietor of the general store and barely three weeks a widower, eloped with Miss Love Simpson -- a woman half his age and, worse yet, a Yankee! On that day, fourteen-year-old Will Tweedy's adventures began and an unimpeachably pious, deliciously irreverent town came to life. Not since To Kill A Mockingbird has a novel so deftly captured the subtle crosscurrents of small-town Southern life. Olive Ann Burns classic bestseller brings to vivid life an era that will never exist again, exploring timeless issues of love, death, coming of age, and the ties that bind families and generations.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback; Reprint edition (July 1, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038531258X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385312585
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (693 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #591,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Who can fail to love this wonderful novel, full of warmth, humor, and honesty, of life in a small, turn-of-the-century Georgia town. Told by Will Tweedy, a 14yo child whose Grandpa Rucker forms the spine of the novel. The story begins with the death of Grandpa Rucker's wife, a saintly woman beloved by all, and there's a lovely scene of Grandpa asking his grandson to cut all the roses from the garden and help him stick them into burlap sacking to make a blanket of roses under which to bury his wife.
After that touching scene, readers - not to mention family members and townsfolk and church people - are shocked to find Grandpa marrying Miss Love, the town's young and beautiful milliner less than a month later. And it's suspected that Miss Love has A Past.
A beautiful coming-of-age story unfolds as Will becomes the confidante of Miss Love and his grandfather, and he learns life-changing lessons about love, life, death, and the meaning of true reverence, and the smallness of some minds.
Wonderful, memorable characters, wonderful life lessons, wonderful set pieces. And absolutely top-notch dialogue.
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Format: Hardcover
... I was required to read this book in school. Being biased against the tedious, coming-of-age novels that always seem to find themselves on my reading list for English class, I immediately labeled Cold Sassy Tree under the "dragging, bland, slow-moving" category. My viewpoints have changed since then. Cold Sassy Tree is a fast-paced, interesting novel about the coming-of-age of a fourteen-year-old boy named Will, who grows up in Cold Sassy, Georgia. A major family conflict sets off the cruel, small-town gossipers of Cold Sassy in the beginning of the book. As the books progresses, several smaller plots take place, which support the theme and thus complicate the story. There are some points in the novel where it seems that Will's family's reputation has gone to the dogs. In the end, however, everything works out and Will learns lessons about life, love, and dignity. For the romantic, Cold Sassy Tree covers the acceptnace of so-called "odd couples." For the religious, Cold Sassy Tree questions theological issues. And for teenage boys also coming of age, Cold Sassy Tree views life from the eyes of a fourteen-year-old (as well as comments on the opposite sex).
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Format: Paperback
I read this book for school over the summer. Now that I've finished, I am so happy it was assigned. This was one of those books that you miss when your done reading.
It takes place in the small town of Cold Sassy, Georgia in the early 1900s. The story is told by a 14 year old boy who has recently lost his best friend and his grandmother. Three weeks after his grandma's death his Grandfather announces that he is going to marry a young woman who is half his age. The family is embarrassed and the town is shocked. After almost a year the town and family starts to accept her the way she accepted them.
I wrote this review as a response to other reviews that I read on the site. Frankly, I was outraged by what some people had to say about this book. Someone claimed that the Grandfather raped his granddaughter and one of the boys friends raped his own sister. I don't know what version he read but that was not at all a part of the story!!! The woman the grandfather married tells that she was raped as a child but that was the only raping that went on in the book, and it was needed to explain why she was so afraid of marring and men. Another person said that a child getting whipped is "HORRIFYING" but that was part of the culture back then. People do not agree with it now but back then it happened all the time. There was also a touch of racism in the plot but again it was needed so that Olive Burns could accurately portray southern life in the early 20th. century.
This book was a joy to read and I cannot wait to get the 2nd. part Leaving Cold Sassy. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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Format: Paperback
For anyone who read books like To Kill a Mockingbird, or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and enjoyed them, I would suggest reading the national bestseller Cold Sassy Tree. This novel takes place in Cold Sassy, Goergia, in 1906. The town is slow-moving, and prejudice like Maycomb County in To Kill a Mockingbird. The story unfolds as Will Tweedy's, the main character,beloved grandmother dies. Scandal errupts when, only three weeks later, Will's granfather elopes with Miss love Simpson. The town cannot believe that he has married a "yankee" just after his wife's death. The major conflict of the story is between Miss Simpson and Will's family and town as to whether or not they can accept her taking grandma's place. But the important, underlying conflict of this book is if granpa can move on with his life, find love again, and find someway to convince the people of the town that Miss Love Simpson isn't the cold-hearted person they think she is. This book is seen through the eyes of Will Tweedy, a 14 year old boy growing up in a southern town, so, although the words are simple, there is a deeper message about love, death, feelings, and morals. I also learned a lot about southern life through this book. All in all, Cold Sassy Tree was a great book that I would reccommend to anyone. It discussed how much death can change a life forever. Read it! I guarantee you'll enjoy it.
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