Review: The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred


The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred
2005-05-12 (Ellora's Cave)

Rating: A+
Heat: Warm

Heroine: Alix French – Protective, 'Adopts' Nick 
Hero: Nick Anderson – Abused, ‘Adopted’ by the French’s 
Setting: Arkansas, USA



It’s been twelve hours now since I finished reading The Sweet Gum Tree, and there is still this heaviness to my heart. This lingering empathy for the characters. My body and mind and emotions are still consumed by this story. Miz Allred has written such a complicated and multi-faceted tale, filled with so much feeling, that it simply devours you whole.

The Sweet Gum Tree is a story about truths, half-truths, and lies. Those we tell others and those we tell ourselves. It is about childhood friendship and young love, the innocence of first loves, and all the highs and lows that go with it. It is about adult passion, finding love again, and how it can be even harder the second time around.

Alix French, our heroine and narrator, is eight years old when the story begins. She is smart, independent, confident and self-assured—as only a child who is completely and truly loved can be. When Alix meets ten year old Nick Anderson, and realizes his father is abusing him, it rouses in her a deep desire to protect him. Save him. Care for him and love him. As her family makes a place for him in their lives and in their home, Alix makes a place for him in her heart.

Nick… From the very first page, the very first paragraph, your heart bleeds for him. Even though he has been neglected his entire life, even though he is downtrodden and maltreated, he is so warm and compassionate and kind. With a mother no longer in the picture and a father who physically and verbally abuses him, to say Nick doesn’t trust easily would be an understatement. But something about Alix calls to him. And, though at first Nick is completely overwhelmed by Alix and her family, he finds a place—a home—in her.

It was so amazing, so riveting, the way that time passes in The Sweet Gum Tree. You really get a sense of Alix and Nick’s lives—the way they grow and change and evolve from children to teenagers to adults. It feels like you don’t miss a thing. I don’t think I’ve ever read another book that spans so many years, encompasses so much history, in such a… compact way.

And even though you know it’s coming—as it tells you in the synopsis—I still felt ill prepared for the fifteen year time jump. It was handled wonderfully, executed perfectly, and still it pretty much tears you apart.

The Alix of Part Two… has been seriously tempered by life and has built so many walls up around her. She is so closed off and emotionally repressed, she is a shell of her former self. A ghost. But when Nick comes back to town, all of those pent up emotions come raging out… and it’s not pretty. The things Alix says and does, well, she makes some big mistakes—and so does Nick. He has a lot to atone for. Many long neglected explanations and overdue answers to give. In Part Two, Alix and Nick have to deal with their lies and half-truths. Reap what they’ve sown.

And, dear lord, is it torture. Pure, raw emotional torture. If emotions were crayons, The Sweet Gum Tree would be the giant box with 96 colors. And it made me feel every – single – one of those colors. Miz Allred writes their emotions with such keenness, such power, that you can’t but feel them all vicariously.

Which is why I spent the entire second half bawling my eyes out. So much so that they’re still swollen and itchy today.

The Sweet Gum Tree will change you. Consume you. Work its way inside you and leave you feeling like it somehow altered your DNA. Don’t start this book unless you can devote the time necessary to read it all in one sitting. Trust me, it’s worth it. Oh, and don’t forget the tissues because you will definitely need them.

Favorite Quote:

“Nick? Have you ever…”
”No.” He lifted his head again, studied me. “I’ve thought about it, but it never seemed right.”
The idea of him making love to anyone else sent a shaft of pain straight through my middle. “You better wait on me, damn it.”
”I don’t think I have much choice.” He brushed my hair back. “You’re the only one I’ve ever wanted, Alix, the only one I’ll ever want. That’s a promise.”


Thoughts While Reading:

15.0% - "I am utterly captivated."
29.0% - "Wow. Lies and truths. Didn't see that coming."
41.0% - "Jesus H... Off to grab some tissues."
100.0% - "Amazing. Just... amazing."

1 comment:

  1. Oh my god this book was amazing. I started at 5pm and finished it at 3:30am. I could not put it down, I keep telling myself I would stop at the next chapter but I had to know what happened top them.


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