As Burns labored on her family history in the early 1970s, a journalist by training and a perfectionist by nature, she left no stone unturned. She interviewed, she collected, she scoured, she assembled. She believed in knowing people through their speech, and arduously collected colloquialisms, patterns of speech, phraseology, curious names, local superstition, death stories, and folk lore. In creating a novel she followed the adage of "writing what you know about" and turned to her ancestral home town, renaming it Cold Sassy, to weave her collected treasures of regional color into the novel's fabric.
Cold Sassy Tree is a marriage of the coming-of-age novel and the universal love story. The novel accomplishes its dual purpose through the narration of Will Tweedy, who chronicles both his passage into adolescence and the love story of his mentor, grandfather, E. Rucker Blakeslee and his new bride. This technique affords the novel with the freshness, innocence and vitality invoked by youth. These qualities are well suited to the exuberance and hopefulness that underscores the developing relationship. Will's youthful "boy howdy" approach to life symbolizes the rejuvenating, healing effects of the love blossoming in the lives of Rucker and Love. In turn, Rucker's poignant maxims create a framework for Will's early struggles in understanding life.
The novel offers a painstaking recreation of Georgian small town life at the...
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