Cold Sassy Tree

Cold Sassy Tree

4.1 153
by Olive Ann Burns

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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…  See more details below


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 irreverant 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 famimies and generations.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Rich with emotion, humor and tenderness." The Washington Post

"One of the best portraits of small-town Southern life ever written." --Pat Conroy

"One beautiful book. Better than To Kill A Mockingbird." --Shirley Abbott

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Random House Publishing Group
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6.70(w) x 8.16(h) x 0.88(d)
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Cold Sassy Tree

By Olive Ann Burns

MacMillan Publishing Company.

Copyright © 1985 Olive Ann Burns
All right reserved.

ISBN: 081613880X

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."
"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?"


Excerpted from Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns Copyright © 1985 by Olive Ann Burns. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Rich with emotion, humor and tenderness." The Washington Post

"One of the best portraits of small-town Southern life ever written."—Pat Conroy

"One beautiful book. Better than To Kill A Mockingbird."—Shirley Abbott

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Cold Sassy Tree 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 153 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely adore this book. I was required to read this for my Lit. class, and if I hadn't been required to read it, I would never have known the greatness of this author. This book has become one of my favorite books. ( I'm contemplating reading this again, and I NEVER read books twice; no matter how good.) This book made me laugh, cry, and ponder things in my own life. AN ABSOLUTE MUST-READ!!!!!
Karen B Hamilton More than 1 year ago
I read about 100 books a year and Cold Sassy Tree remains my favorite! I love Grandpa and the reverance he shows for Grandma......humorous but touching!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book. I have read it several times. Cold Sassy Tree is one of my favorites. The author was in her eighties when she wrote this book to critical acclaim. She started a sequal Under Cold Sassy Tree, but died before she finished it. She even worked on it while she was in the hospital. That book was finished by someone else. It was also very good. It was hard to tell where the other author started writting. I highly recommend both of these novels to all book lovers. AD
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a good book after you get past the first couple of chapters because it seeems to repeat itself but the rest is just wonderful.
Nicole Valli More than 1 year ago
I have the paper back book given to me as a gift from my librarian. I just loved this book. It wa so sweet,loving, and of course funny. Although it was a long book it was slow at first the ending was so wonderful it made me cry. If anyone should be going throuh any difficulies and decisions i highly recomend u read this book. Some parts are a little strange fyi. I would also consider this book to be a romance novel too. If anyone reads tis and u dont mind long books read this. Oh and i almost forgot, here is a sequel to th book called leaving cold sassy which i am looking for. ALL LOVERS WHO HAVE READ THE BOOK MUST READ SEQUEL!!!!
GrammaMikkik More than 1 year ago
I loved this book...more surprising, my husband loved this book. It is filled with with the day to day small wins and losses we all understand and identify with. read it and feel good.
Jennlvs2read More than 1 year ago
Book Club read. I think I may quit this book club!! I'm finding this book very hard to get though. I tell myself before reading, I need to work on reading my book. (Boy H'owdy) Work it is! The dialect is difficut to focus. I'm half way though forcing myself to finish. I don't care about the characters, not enough depth. The story is boring, petty and drawn out. I'll be glad when it's over.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cold Sassy Tree, although being one of the few books that I have ever completed in my life, is one of my favorites! Olive Ann Burns wrote this book based on her own family life. I enjoy books that are based on true events. Burns did an excellent job of writing Cold Sassy Tree. I felt like the charaters were speaking directly to me. She used country slang in the dialog which made me realize first off that Cold Sassy was a very small, realistic town out in the country. Every detail in this book was very clear to me. This book to me was a walk through Cold Sassy, Georgia with Will Tweedy, the character who was based on Olive's father. Will seemed like my best friend while I was reading this book. Cold Sassy, being a small town, meant that everyone in the community know all there was to know about anyone that lived there until Miss Love Simpson came to town. Love upset everyone in the community because no one could figure her out. If you love to gossip I encourage you to read this book, it will help you understand how the person with the burning ears feels.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this ten years ago for my high school AP class. It was one of my favorite books. The setting is excellent, and the characters are familiar yet surprising. I would recommend this to young men and women.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How i wish the amazing Olive Ann Burns could have shared more of her amazing talent with us before she passed too soon. This is one of the sweetest, most humorous books ever written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hated this book. It was a required read for AP english and it was quite profaine and had no point. The story went nowhere and I found the sexual content offensive. I definitely want my money back!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy this book and I decided to try the audio version. It was wonderful. 11 compact disks later, I didn't want it to end! Will Tweedy, Grandpa Blakeslee and the rest will forever remain in my memory. Cold Sassy is what we all envision of small town America at its worst and its finest. Some parts were laugh out loud! I loved the audio version feeling that the accents and slang were done to perfection. A true joy and delight and one that I know I will listen to again someday!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing story about Georgia at the turn of the century. You will appreciate this author's work. The characters and their actions are unforgetable. This is a must read for anyone who has a love for the south. It is simple and down to earth but very easy to enjoy. I learned alot form this book and will appreciate and value it for many years to come.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite books - I have read it several times. I love the small town connections and the humorous insight. I have read it twice and plan to keep it in my library to read again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My librarian told me to get this book. She said it was one of the best books she ever read. While I was reading it I got other people in my family interested in it. It was such a great story and everyone else in my family enjoyed it. It is one of my favorite books and anyone can read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I believe that this is one of the best written American novels of the 20th century. Ms. Burns gets us into Will's life as no other author could. The book is realistic and life-relating.
Anonymous 10 months ago
There were a few grammmatical errors, but other then that ot was great!!!!!!!"!;)<3
OKP More than 1 year ago
Would not recommend for school summer reading: story of pig breast feeding, etc. Profound religion philosophy, a lot of funeral description, hard to read south dialect.
Two2dogs More than 1 year ago
This book was recommended by a good friend so bought it and LOVED it! This has got to be one of the best books I've read all year, even bought the movie but wanted to finish reading the book first. I really enjoyed how Will Tweety told this story of small town life in 1906, I could picture this small town and all the people in his life, funny and sad and very true to life, I too highly recommend this book and cannot wait to read the sequel &quot;Leaving Cold Sassy&quot;
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For teens it might be good. But I am an adult and I found it slow and dull.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good job. You know rhat Sassy was a great dog, she died of cancer. We all still miss her dearly even years later.<p>Question #4<br>My stepmother's name is...(*hint: starts with "L")
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I first read Cold Sassy Tree thirty years ago and decided it was one of the most delightful books I'd ever read! I smiled and giggled and chuckled my way through it, picturing in my mind all that was happening. A good book takes you away and places you right in the center of the action - and I was there. Written in the voice of a young boy, the characters he describes come to life. Since that first time reading it, I've read it twice more and my husband and I listened to the audio book on a long trip to California - and he was hooked too! I am reading it again and am just as delighted and enchanted as the first time. Whenever a friend asks for a book recommendation, Cold Sassy Tree is always one of the first titles out of my mouth. I wish Olive Burns had written a lot more books - I love her voice.