Sweet Dream Baby

Overview

Twelve-year-old Travis is sent to live in rural Florida with his grandparents and his sixteen-year-old Aunt Delia for the summer. Having left the domestic turmoil of his home in Omaha behind, he becomes absorbed in the small-town dramas of Delia and her friends.

As Travis falls under Delia’s spell, he becomes aware that the 1950s small town he has made his own may hold more secrets than innocence. He ultimately comes to believe that Delia’s welfare is in his hands alone, a ...

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2002 Hardcover 1st Edition New in As New jacket 140220017X First print.

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Overview

Twelve-year-old Travis is sent to live in rural Florida with his grandparents and his sixteen-year-old Aunt Delia for the summer. Having left the domestic turmoil of his home in Omaha behind, he becomes absorbed in the small-town dramas of Delia and her friends.

As Travis falls under Delia’s spell, he becomes aware that the 1950s small town he has made his own may hold more secrets than innocence. He ultimately comes to believe that Delia’s welfare is in his hands alone, a belief that not only forces him to grow up fast, but one that builds to a shocking and disturbing climax.

Author Sterling Watson has written a novel steeped in the Southern gothic tradition. The reader feels the oppressive heat of a Florida summer, and hears the 1950s rock ’n roll music humming from the AM radio of a speeding convertible. Watson’s characters are brought vividly to life through Travis’s touching, powerful and intensely personal voice. A dark coming of age tale, Sweet Dream Baby begins in innocence and ends in a dramatically different place.

About the Author: Sterling Watson is the author of four previous novels: Deadly Sweet (1994), Blind Tongues (1989), The Calling (1986) and Weep No More My Brother (1978). He teaches literature and writing at Eckerd College, a small private college in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
America's loss of innocence in the rock and roll 1950s parallels one boy's painful transformation into a man in Watson's affecting fifth novel (Deadly Sweet, etc.). Twelve-year-old Travis is having a tough childhood: his beloved Japanese mother is in a mental institution, leaving him in the care of his emotionally unavailable Marine father, and he is constantly tormented by a redneck teenage neighbor. His life changes dramatically when he leaves Omaha to spend the summer with his father's family in Widow Rock, Fla. Travis's grandfather is the town's stern sheriff, his grandmother is often bedridden with headaches or heat exhaustion and his saucy Aunt Delia ("the subject of eighty percent of all Widow Rock Gossip Reports") is a 16-year-old spitfire. Travis is smitten by her verve from the moment she screeches to a halt in her '55 Chevy, and aunt and nephew bond quickly. Delia trusts her secrets with Travis, and he gains a masculine sense of protectiveness as he learns about the power of sex, lust and violence. The novel's take on the social politics of a small Southern town is predictable, and the secondary characters tend to fall into stock categories (the arrogant rich boy, the tough but sensitive greaser), but this is easily forgivable because Watson portrays the rich relationship between Travis and Delia with convincing psychological detail. Besotted with Delia, Travis loses emotional control and commits an outrageous act. The suspense builds to an explosive ending, and Travis's coming of age is brutal, touching and memorable. While Watson breaks no new ground here, he proves himself a first-rate storyteller. (Nov.) Forecast: Regional sales in the South could start this novel on a word-of-mouth upswing. 150,000 first printing. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Watson (Deadly Sweet, 1994, etc.) serves up a nicely packed if sentimental and ultimately melodramatic teenage romp-turned-violent in an Eisenhower-era Florida town. Here are all the elements of a classic southern horror tale: bored and sex-mad teenagers; early rock-'n'-roll music on car radios; moonshine; and a mean-eyed, laconic sheriff. With his Japanese mother in an insane asylum back in Omaha and his WWII-veteran father unable to care for him, 12-year-old Travis is spending the summer with his Grandma and Grandpa Hollister (Grandpa is also the sheriff) and their savvy, hot-footed 16-year-old daughter, Delia, in Widow Rock, Florida. Despite Travis's youth, he gets hip to the local mores fast and falls hard for his aunt Delia, whose elusive Natalie Wood beauty and dishy secrets prove the unraveling of several of the local boys. Delia introduces Travis to cruising in her Chevy, skinny-dipping, and the fatal lure of rock'-n'-roll, and he becomes "Killer," after Jerry Lee Lewis, a name he'll grow into in a horrifying manner over the summer: The is the summer Travis will become a man by having to protect Delia from herself. Watson's meticulous, insouciant first-person narrative gains suspense by minuscule degrees, so that what starts as a sweet-tempered parody of a James Dean movie-the local greaser reads The Subterraneans, the kids talk about "dreamboats" and being "cool," and the big black cook, named Marvadell, is always crying "Humph!" in the kitchen-gradually turns sordid and sharp. Watson toys with southern stereotypes and nostalgia for the days of jukebox music, soda fountains, red Oldsmobiles, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon; and while Travis's desperately wrong-headedattempts to save Delia pull the story down into a grisly modern psychotherapy, the tale nonetheless provides some delicious page-turning. A southern boy's fantasy of coming of age under the guidance of his languorous older aunt could make this a sneaky sleeper.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402200175
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/1/2002
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.28 (w) x 7.94 (h) x 1.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Sterling Watson is the author of four previous novels: Deadly Sweet, Blind Tongues, The Calling and Weep No More My Brother. He teaches literature and creative writing at Eckerd College, a private liberal arts college in St. Petersburg, Florida.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2006

    Southern horror

    This isn't a new book, but it's by an author I've just started reading. It's a coming of age story trying to find the meaning of life and love in the music of the late 50's and 60's. It begins steeped in innocence and ends in Southern (central Florida) horror. Watson is not a prolific author, only 6 novels, but I'll be reading everything he writes.

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