Monday, July 18, 2011

The Sweetest Thing by Elizabeth Musser

The Sweetest Thing by Elizabeth Musser (Rated: C)
Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0764208317
Published June 2011
Trade Paperback, 400 pages

I let out a sigh of satisfaction and contentment as I finished reading the last page of this book, realizing that YA historical fiction is fast becoming one of my favourite genres. I simply loved this beautiful book, enjoying it to the point that I did not want it to end.

It takes place in Atlanta, Georgia in 1933 during the Depression. Seventeen year-old Mary Dobbs, daughter of an itinerant preacher from Chicago, arrives poor but full of life and religious zeal to live with her wealthy, generous aunt so she can attend a prestigious school. Anne Perri, whose family suffers a tragedy and great financial loss is befriended by Dobbs. Their friendship and their consequent transformation as individuals is the crux of this story, but there is so much more!

There are memorable characters in this book, well-drawn out and believable. My favourite were Dobbs, Coolie, and Parthenia, the eight-year-old black servant girl. These girls had spunk and were not afraid to speak their minds. From the first page, the author easily kept my interest with a good set of characters, a great plot and a setting she easily brought to life so that I could see and feel the desperation of both the dirt-poor and the wealthy as they dealt with the life-changing events of the Depression years. Both Dobbs and Perri had to come to terms with what was important in life versus what was desirable.

This book deals with various worthy themes: faith in God, dealing with financial loss, grieving over the loss of a close family member, sickness, friendships, forgiveness, social status, and racial segregation.
As I was reading I couldn't help thinking this story would make a good movie series for PBS's Masterpiece. The setting was so interesting and I learned a few things about the Depression years in Midwest and Southern US, such as the Alms Houses, the Dust Bowl, and the traditions of high school kids in the 1930s, like pop-calling (when boys popped in to see the girls at their homes) and the splendour of their sorority dances.

Even though I didn't agree with the frenetic preaching of the evangelists of the “Sawdust Trail” at revival tent meetings, I did appreciate the wholesome goodness of Dobbs' family and their zeal to help the poor and those in need of faith-strengthening. The author managed to write a good story where the characters had to find a balance in their lives because extremes (whether poor or wealthy) did not lead to happiness, but rather faith in God led to true happiness.

This book is a clean read, and I recommend it to teens and adults interested in a good book with teens in the 1930s. Many of the issues teens faced back then are still relevant today. This is a truly enjoyable book that I will pass on to my daughter as she gets older.

I will count this book toward the following challenges: YA Reading Challenge, Historical Fiction Challenge

Disclosure: Thanks to Jim Hart from Bethany House for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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  1. I ma glad to hear the story is as beautiful as the cover! This will be making a home on my wish list. I don't read much YA but lately I have enjoyed a few YA books. I wonder how many good reads I have dismissed because they are not my usual reads?

  2. This does sound nice. I'm making a note of it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. This does sound marvelous! It's nice to see there are YA books out there that aren't paranormal.

  4. Oh, I just love the cover on this one and was surprised to read it is YA. Thanks for highlighting the book. Have a wonderful week and enjoy your new reads!

  5. This sounds fantastic! I've surprised myself in recent years by how much I enjoy YA and middle grade historical fiction. Will definitely keep this book in mind for myself and my daughter.


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