Protected by the sultry, natural rhythms of Sweetwater Creek, 12-year-old Emily Parmenter lives in quiet denial in the aftermath of her mother's disappearance and the death of her beloved older brother. Her tranquil incubation is snapped, however, by the arrival of Lulu Foxworth, a plantation heiress who has troubles and secrets of her own. An evocative, multi-layer Lowcountry tale.
Veteran novelist Siddons (Islands; Nora, Nora) returns to South Carolina's low country for her latest, a capable but uninspired story of a young girl's coming-of-age on the family plantation. Emily Parmenter is a lonely 12-year-old whose life revolves around the Boykin spaniels her family raises as hunting dogs. Her mother ran off; her beloved disabled brother, Buddy, who introduced her to literature, blew his head off with a shotgun (although Emily has conversations with him in her head); and her father, Walter, withholds all praise and attention. Her solace is her dog, Elvis, and Cleta, the wise black housekeeper. When 20-year-old LuLu Foxworth of the blueblood Foxworths arrives to spend time at the Parmenter plantation and work with the dogs, Emily is reluctant to welcome her, while social-climbing Walter is thrilled, hoping LuLu can teach Emily "to be a lady." The two emotionally neglected girls bond, and Lulu confides her dirty little secret: her addiction to alcohol and the smarmy Yancey Byrd, with whom Lulu has a 9U Weeks-style love affair. The plot follows formula and the ends tie up happily for everyone but poor LuLu, the bad rich girl with the heart of gold. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Twelve-year-old Emily Parmenter helps in the family business of raising hunting spaniels at their Charleston area plantation, Sweetwater Farm. Her only pals are her own dog, Elvis, and her deceased older brother, Buddy (who speaks to her from the grave). But her life is about to change radically with the arrival of rich, sophisticated 20-year-old Lulu Foxworth. During her visit to the plantation, she falls in love with the dogs and Emily's family before moving in. As in Siddons's Nora, Nora, we again see a strong-willed young woman enter the scene both to disturb and to enrich her environs and transform an adolescent, motherless girl. Under Lulu's tutelage, Emily leaves her child's world and enters one for which she's not quite ready. As usual, Siddons never lets you forget where you are-the essence of South Carolina's Low Country is prominently featured and intricately (albeit sometimes repetitively) described. Fans of Siddons's novels will enjoy; for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/05.]-Carol J. Bissett, New Braunfels P.L., TX Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Siddons's strength is in describing locale, and in Sweetwater Creek she takes readers to the South Carolina Lowcountry, imbuing it with an almost magical aura. The mystical landscape of oak groves and tidal rivers where dolphins play is home to 12-year-old Emily Parmenter, daughter of a struggling plantation owner whose only claim to success is his line of legendary Boykin hunting spaniels. Emily grieves the death of her cherished older brother while also coming to terms with her mother's desertion. She forges a bond with her own spaniel and proceeds to find her place on the plantation when her innate ability to train the hunting dogs is discovered. Life is beginning to settle into a comfortable rhythm when a young debutante, Lulu Foxworth, exhausted from her whirlwind social season, takes up residence at Sweetwater Plantation for a summer of rest and retreat from the pressures of her demanding life. Lulu craves the peace of Sweetwater, and Emily, though curious, is not anxious to let the outside world in. This coming-of-age tale appeals on many levels as it explores loneliness and loss, friendship and betrayal, and the comfort of a beloved pet or favorite place in nature. Despite the sadness that pervades, there is peace, beauty, and escape in Sweetwater Creek.-Gari Plehal, Pohick Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
“Rises above…by the sheer beauty and power of its prose. A story that refuses to be put down.”
“This is Siddons’ best work.”
“Richly atmospheric…touching, dramatic… one of Siddons’ most impressive novels.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Few writers are better than Siddons at evoking the sweet gentility of Southern climes.”
“Fans of Southern novels in the vein of FRIED GREEN TOMATOES will relish this one’s rich atmosphere.”
“This story, with its haunting, lyrical prose and complex characters...will captivate any reader.”
Bangor Daily News
“Lush, lyrical prose and loving detail.”
St. Petersburg Times
“A powerful narrative that should satiate Siddons’ many fans and captivate new ones.”
“A page-turner. The setting and the isolated life will remind readers of Sue Monk Kidd’s THE MERMAID CHAIR.”
Charlotte News & Observer
“Themes of love and loss are intertwined throughout, as the reader rides on a tide of Siddons’ lush, lyrical prose.”
“A fully alive world of many dimensions.”
Read an Excerpt
Sweetwater Creek LP
By Anne Rivers Siddons
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2005 Anne Rivers Siddons
All right reserved.
On a Thanksgiving eve, just before sunset, Emily and Elvis sat on the bank of a hummock where it slid down into Sweetwater Creek. Autumn in the Lowcountry of South Carolina is usually as slow and sweet as thick tawny port, and just as sleepily intoxicating. But this one had been born cold, with frosts searing late annuals in early October and chill nights so clear and still that the stars over the marshes and creeks bloomed like white chrysanthemums. Sweaters came out a full two months early, and furnaces rumbled dustily on in late September. Already Emily was shivering hard in her thin denim jacket, and had pulled Elvis closer for his body heat. In the morning, the spartina grass would be tinkling with a skin of ice and rime and the tidal creek would run as dark and clear as iced tea, the opaque, teeming strata of creek life having died out early or gone south with migratory birds. Emily missed the ribbons of birdsong you could usually hear well after Thanksgiving, but the whistle of quail and the blatting chorus of ducks and other waterfowl rang clearer, and the chuff and cough of deer come close. Emily loved the sounds of the winter animals; they said that life on the marsh would go on.
They sat on the bank overlooking the little sand beach where the river dolphins came to hurl themselves out of the water after the fish they had herded there. The dolphins were long gone to warmer seas, but at low tide the slide marks they wore into the sand were still distinct. They would not fade away until many more tides had washed them.
"There won't be any of them this late," Emily told Elvis. Elvis grinned up at her; he knew this. The dolphins were for heat and low tide. Girl and spaniel came almost every day in the summer and fall to watch them. Elvis's internal clock was better by far than the motley collection of timepieces back in the farmhouse.
They sat a while longer, as the gold and vermillion sunset dulled to gray-lavender. They would go back to the house soon, or be forced to stumble their way home in the swift, dense dark. Emily hadn't brought her flashlight. She had not thought they would be gone this long. But the prospect of the dim kitchen light and the thick smell of supper, and the even thicker silence, kept her on the marsh. This night would not be a happy one, even by Parmenter standards. Already words had been flung that could not be taken back, and furious tears shed, and the torturous wheel of Thanksgiving day loomed as large as a millstone. No, there would be silence now, each of them drowned in their own pools of it. The speaking was done. It was not the Parmenter way to go back and try to mitigate hurt and anger. By suppertime it would simply not exist anymore, except in Emily's roiling mind. Her father and brothers would be deep in their eating and drinking, and her Aunt Jenny would have gone quietly home to her own silent hearth. Tomorrow she and Emily and old Cleta would prepare the ritual dinner for the returning hunters. Weather or catastrophe, sickness or grinding grief, the Thanksgiving hunt was sacrosanct. Walter Parmenter had instituted it long before Emily's birth.
"All the big plantations have them. It's an old sporting tradition," he said often, to anyone who might be listening. "We, of all the plantation families, should have one. We have the best hunting dogs in the Lowcountry, and some of the best bird land. The other planters talk about our dogs and our land. People tell me they hear about them all the time."
That there were now very few planters left on the huge river and tidal creek plantations around Charleston was, to Walter Parmenter, beside the point. He lived far back in his head, in the glory days of the family-oriented plantations. But most of the properties now were owned by northern sportsmen or hunting clubs, with managers to oversee day-to-day life. In this new millennium, they were largely weekend plantations. It was a point of immense pride to Walter that he had lived and worked Sweetwater Plantation almost his entire life. He scorned the holiday planters.
"Not one of them knows the woods and fields and marshes and the game and birds like I do. I could show them things about these parts that would pin their ears back. I could outhunt the lot of them, too. Me and the boys and the dogs, we'll show them a thing or two about that one of these days."
Emily thought that unlikely; Walter had never been invited on the great Thanksgiving and Christmas hunts that were traditional with some of their landed neighbors. They visited only to look at and buy Sweetwater's famous Boykin spaniels. They would smile and speak admiringly of the Boykins, and usually go home with a pup or leave an order for the next litter, and then retreat to their fine old houses at the end of their long live oak allées. Her father was right about one thing, though. Sweetwater's Boykin spaniels were among the best in the Lowcountry, bred from strict breed standards and long lines of legendary hunters, and trained meticulously. If you took home a Sweetwater Boykin, whether started or broke, you had yourself a hunting dog that would be greatly admired in the field and house by every visitor who came. Elvis was one of them. Emily had trained him herself ...
Excerpted from Sweetwater Creek LP by Anne Rivers Siddons Copyright © 2005 by Anne Rivers Siddons. Excerpted by permission.
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