Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears

Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears

4.1 9
by Ken Wheaton

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A freak accident forces a New Yorker to return to Louisiana and confront her Cajun past

There is nothing more dangerous than a spooked rhinoceros. It is just before lunchtime when Huey, the prized black rhino of Broussard, Louisiana, erupts from his enclosure, trampling a zoo employee on his way to a rampage in the Cajun countryside. The incident

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A freak accident forces a New Yorker to return to Louisiana and confront her Cajun past

There is nothing more dangerous than a spooked rhinoceros. It is just before lunchtime when Huey, the prized black rhino of Broussard, Louisiana, erupts from his enclosure, trampling a zoo employee on his way to a rampage in the Cajun countryside. The incident makes the rounds online as News of the Weird, and Katherine Fontenot is laughing along with the rest of her New York office when she notices the name of the hurt zookeeper: Karen-Anne Castille—her sister.

Fifty years old, lonely, and in danger of being laid off, Katherine has spent decades trying to ignore her Louisiana roots. Forced home by Karen-Anne’s accident, she remembers everything about the bayou that she wanted to escape: the heat, the mosquitoes, and the constant, crushing embrace of family. But when forced to confront the ghosts of her past, she discovers that escape might never have been necessary.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears
“Ken Wheaton’s got his Cajun on. His book is funny, raw, wrenching, a heartfelt tale of the complexities of family, love and that place we call home—and, at the end of it all, how stories help heal and restore the wounded spirit in us all.” —Ken Wells, author of Meely LaBauve and Crawfish Mountain

“One of the best novels I’ll read this year. Under all the little ruptures in our lives is a mud fight for the soul. For Wheaton the balm for it all is the story and storytelling, an essential inquiry in search of the flashes of angelism embedded in the dirt and grit of our human passage.” —Darrell Bourque, author of Megan’s Guitar and Other Poems from Acadie and former Louisiana poet laureate

“Take a dysfunctional Southern family and put them on social media and it’s Katy-bar-the-door. With humor and poignancy, Wheaton shows just how strong and everlasting the call to home can be, even for those determined to escape.” —Brynn Bonner, author of Paging the Dead and Death in Reel Time

Praise for The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival
“Delightful . . . Wheaton writes with an infectious energy.” —Publishers Weekly

“Warmed my heart faster than a double shot of Wild Turkey and kept me laughing through the night. This is a rollicking irreverent debut. It’s also a charming love story with a heart as big as Louisiana. I am a huge Ken Wheaton fan.” —Matthew Quick, author of Silver Linings Playbook

“Readers need to hold on to their hats because Wheaton’s roller-coaster ride of a book has hilarious highs that plunge to soul-baring angst, then zoom back up to the top.” —Booklist

Product Details

Open Road Integrated Media LLC
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Ken Wheaton was born in Opelousas, Louisiana, in 1973. Raised Catholic and Cajun, Wheaton aspired to one day be a navy pilot but was sidelined by bad eyesight and poor math skills. He graduated from Opelousas Catholic School in 1991 and went off to Southampton College–Long Island University in Southampton, New York, intending to study marine biology. An excess of drinking and (again) a dearth of math skills led him to become an English major. From there he returned to Louisiana, where he received an MA in creative writing from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana-Lafayette). 

Wheaton is the author of The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival and Bacon and Egg Man, and is the managing editor of the trade publication Advertising Age. A Louisiana native, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Said Dave Barry of Wheaton’s second novel: “I had several drinks with the author at a party, and based on that experience, I would rank this novel right up there with anything by Marcel Proust.” 

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The Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a story full of contrasts and juxtapositions, as its title suggests. Sweet and salty, rural and urban, living comfortably or just scraping by, New York bars and having a beer on the front porch...picture yourself hitting the ripening age of fifty in the urbane world of New York City, single, having lived fairly high on the hog for decades, but now suddenly hit with the death of your sister and losing your job because of the bad economy. It's a turning point, a major transition. You need to attend your sister's funeral back home from whence you came, poor and rural Louisiana. Fleeing in anguish from her rural childhood home after a devastating tragedy, Katie-Lee transforms herself into urban Katherine and immerses herself in a city lifestyle. She keeps up to date with modern technology and keeps her relationship to her family superficial. But the death of her sister and loss of her job compels Katherine to face her family and why she left. Thomas Wolfe said you can't go home again. Katherine will find out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Slow start but finished quick!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BuriedUnderBooks More than 1 year ago
The first thing that struck me about Sweet As Cane, Salty As Tears was the cadence of the language, the Cajun dialect. I spent a few years in Louisiana and was immediately taken back to that time. The sound of it felt accurate and, sure enough, the author hails from the very area he’s writing about. Is this a happy book, a funny one? No; although there are spots of humor, especially when the sisters start going after each other, this really is a tale of the human condition, warts and all. The Fontenot family, down to all the grandkids and nieces and nephews, are a proud lot and make the most of what little they have in life but, above all, they are family. They may have major fights but, when all is said and done, they are loyal. Grand Prairie and Opelousas, Louisiana, are home to this Cajun clan. When Katie-Lee aka Katherine left for New York City so many years ago, it was to escape a tragedy she just couldn’t cope with and, in doing so, she broke the hearts of all her siblings and her mother. Her life there has been fairly good but certainly not exciting or particularly comforting and she has little to look forward to other than more of the same. The occasional visit home was not enough to satisfy anyone and was never comfortable but they stayed in touch through Facebook. When tragedy strikes again, Katie-Lee heads home again and finds that perhaps it’s past time for a change. The essence of the family connections and what all these people mean to each other is at the core of the story but it’s the characters themselves who captured my heart. The siblings—Kurt Junior, Karla-Jean, Kendra-Sue, Katie-Lee, Karen-Anne and Joey aka Kane are rambunctious, contentious, rowdy, smart, all the adjectives you can think of, and the sisters are like as not going to end up in a physical brawl just because it’s hot or somebody said something wrong. I appreciated Mama and Daddy, too, but it’s that bunch of kids I most enjoyed watching as they grew up and had families of their own. As Southern fiction goes, Sweet As Cane, Salty As Tears is one of the most memorable books I’ve read and I’m going to go get an earlier book, The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival, to get another taste of the area if not these particular people. I do hope Mr. Wheaton intends to take us back there again soon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed reading this book. I was born and raised in the Lafayette area. This book brought back memories I have from there. Remembered cane country and especially Steen's cane syrup. Book cover is a reminder. Roots for all of us run deep and this book points that out.
MargieS1 More than 1 year ago
Given To Me For An Honest Review This book started off slow for me but once I got into it I could not put it down. I read it in one day. It is about a woman who grew up in  Louisiana and just walk away from her family and life when she was 20. She ended up in New York. She creates a life there, makes  friends, marries and gets divorced. She is fifty, gets fired from her job and learns that her sister is killed by a rhinoceros at the zoo  where she works. She needs to go "home". She hasn't been back for a very long time. When she gets back she doesn't recognize  many at all. She ends up getting into a fight with her sister. I don't want to give all the story away but believe me Ken Wheaton did a  marvelous job with this book. It could be any family that he wrote about. I loved it and I highly recommend it to all. You will not regret reading it. My only negative is, I wish I could give it a 10+ stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Funny, yet touching fictional account of a woman from Cajun Country and her somewhat disjointed family. Katie-Lee returns home to Louisiana from New York after a sibling dies in a zoo accident and has to deal with her past and present lives. Was it the best book I've ever read? No, but it was definitely entertaining, while showing insight into different cultural worlds and family/personal relationships. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really? This is really the funniest put off to read that I have seen this year in a blurb. Usually its pun titles as too cute
SteveOlenski More than 1 year ago
Brilliant storytelling with characters everyone can relate to... just an all around great read. I highly recommend Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears