The Spirit of Sweetgrass: a Novel

The Spirit of Sweetgrass: a Novel

by Nicole Seitz


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The Spirit of Sweetgrass: a Novel by Nicole Seitz

Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins is a 78-year-old sweetgrass basket weaver who sits on the side of Hwy. 17 in the company of her dead husband, Daddy Jim. Inspired by her Auntie Leona, Essie Mae finally discovers her calling in life and weaves powerful "love baskets," praying fervently over them to affect the lives of those who visit her roadside stand. When she's faced with losing her home and her stand and being put in a nursing home, Daddy Jim talks her into coming on up to Heaven to meet sweet Jesus-something she's always wanted to do. Once there, she reunites with Gullahs and African ancestors; but soon, her heavenly peace is disrupted, for she still has work to do. Now Essie Mae, who once felt powerless and invisible, must find the strength within her to keep her South Carolina family from falling apart.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781591455066
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 03/06/2007
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 1,263,798
Product dimensions: 5.76(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.84(d)

About the Author

Nicole Seitz weaves enchanting tales of redemption filled with unforgettable characters and a refreshing Southern voice. She lives near Charleston, South Carolina,with her husband and two children. Twitter @nicoleseitz,

Read an Excerpt

The Spirit of Sweetgrass

a Novel

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2007 Nicole Seitz
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59145-506-6

Chapter One


I reckon this-here roadside stand's a whole lot like my life-sometimes good folk stop and visit a while; other times, folks come by, seems like just to haggle and make my day long. All the time, there's these cars zipping by, one after the other after the other-can't stop 'em. Just like time. It keeps rolling on, don't care who I am or what I'm selling-just lets me bake here in the sun, getting older every minute.

Sweetest thing to ever happen to me out here was 'bout nine, ten years ago just after my husband, Jim, died. I was sitting here making a sweetgrass basket, and I looked up kinda sudden-like. Walking down the side of the road like he just got dropped off the carta bus was my sweet Jim, just a-smiling and grinning. I almost fell out my chair, sweet Jesus! Now, I'd heard 'bout dead folk coming back around and visiting, but I never expected to see Jim again. He come to me, though, sure 'nough, and he shows up every morning when I'm setting out my baskets. He sits with me every day in this here pink plastic chair I pull out for him. He's a-sitting here right this very minute-"Ain't you, Jim?"-just like he was bright and early this morning when trouble come to see me.

There we are, Jim and me, sitting here talking 'bout nothing much with traffic kicking up dust. The air's so humid, we know it's fixing to rain. Got no idea how bad a storm it's really gonna be.

'Round nine o'clock we see a car fixing to pull in. I get to praising Jesus for the business He's bringing when all a sudden, my heart 'bout stops. There's my daughter, Henrietta, pulling over to the side of the road, and I know she ain't bringing me nothing but heartache.

"Henrietta, what you doin' here?" I ask her, pushing up from my seat.

"Hey, Mama," she says, real sweet-like when she rolls the window down. "I'm here to pick you up!"

"Pick me up? What you talkin' about?"

"I got the day off, so I thought we could spend some time together," she says. "It'll be a girls' day out."

Well then, that's when I know it, and it ain't good. There ain't no way Henrietta's coming to spend time with me. No sir. Last time she did anything friendly with me a'tall was when she hauled me over to the Belk store few years back to find me some bigger brassieres to wear. And she only done that 'cause she was embarrassed my bosoms was popping out my blouse at her Christmas Eve supper.

My daughter Henrietta's what I call uppity. Now, I know it's a sin to talk like that-'specially when it's your own flesh and blood-but sweet Jesus, that girl ain't got a tender spot on her body. Like she was born with a thorn in her side, makes her mad as all get-out at the world. Matter fact, I can remember her screaming bloody murder from the time she was born. It must be hard having an angry spirit like Retta's. Ever now and again, she tries to be sweet, but it wears her out fast, and she goes back to mean. All I can do is love her how she is, I reckon. She don't make it easy, though, I tell you what. Henrietta's got a strange way of showing love for people. Most times, it comes out like she don't like you much a'tall. But sometimes, like this morning, she can be downright scary.

"I can't go nowhere, Retta. I'm sittin' at my stand now," I tell her. "I can't leave my baskets."

"Well sure you can," she says. "Nancy's right there." Miss Nancy's stand is over yonder 'bout thirty feet or so. She hollers over to her, "Miss Nancy, will you watch Mama's stand while we go out for a bit?"

Nancy look like she don't know what to say. I'm over there shaking my head no, but she must not see me 'cause she says, "I reckon I can. How long you gonna be?"

"Not too long, Nancy. And we might just bring you back something. An ice cream cone maybe?"

An ice cream cone? Well now that seems fishier than a shrimp net in summertime. Oh sweet Jesus, I pray, please let us just be goin' out for ice cream, hear?

"Mama, you sure look nice today," says Henrietta, grabbing my arm and trying to pull me on up into her SUV. She's wearing pressed pants and a nice red blouse, and her hair's straightened and smooth and perfect-just like she always has it. I look down at my walking shoes and my long gray skirt and orange blouse with the top two buttons missing. My heart sinks plumb down to my shoes 'cause I know she lying 'bout my looks. That girl sure is up to something.

"Henrietta, listen here-where we goin'?" I say, eyeing her hard.

"It's a surprise," she says.

"I don't like surprises."

She don't say nothing back.

"I said, I want to know where you takin' me, Retta. I got my baskets to tend to."

Still nothing.

"Henrietta! Take me back now. I ain't playin' your games."

"All right!" she says, not so cool no more. "All right. We're going over to James Island."

"James Island? What in heaven for?"

"It's a beautiful day, Mama."

"Retta, we ain't never gone to James Island together in all my memory. Tell me right now, what we gonna do over there?"

Retta seems to be heating up, and she pulls the car to a stoplight and holds her breath. When she lets it out again she tells me, "There's a lovely place on James Island called Sunnydale Farms."

"Sunnydale Farms? What they got-collards? Strawberries? 'Cause I can get me all I need over to Boone Hall," I say, relieved. "Come on. Let's turn on back and get us some greens."

"It's not that kind of farm, Mama."

"Not that kind? Then what they got? Onions? Snap beans?"

"It's not for food, Mama." She squeezes the wheel tight. Sounds like her fingers gonna rub the leather plumb off. Then she says real slow and careful-like, "Sunnydale Farms is a very nice retirement community."

"Retirement? You takin' me to a nursin' home? Oh Lord have mercy! I ain't retirin'! Sweet Jesus, help me outta here!" I'm grabbing for the handle and scratching at the door.

"Don't get so upset, Mama." She punches the pedal again. "We're just going for a little visit. A visit, okay? It's just to see if you like it, that's all."

"Oh God in heaven, my life is over! Retta, no you can't, I'm your mama, child! Stop the car this minute!"

"I promise!" she yells, 'bout breaking my eardrums. "I'll take you back to your stand in a couple hours, Mama." Then quieting down to a real low voice she says, "Now come on. I thought we could have a nice time, but I suppose we cannot."

"You ain't gonna leave me there, Retta. Child, you just try it, and I'll go kickin' and screamin'. You'll be mighty embarrassed, yes ma'am-mighty embarrassed! You'll wish you ain't never hauled me over there. I-"

"Mama, stop talking crazy." A scowl I seen a hundred or more times spreads over her face. I can tell it even though she staring 'head at the road. "Let's just take a look. Nothing more than that. All right?"

Well, I drop it, sure 'nough. But I got to keep my guard up-less Henrietta try something funny.


Excerpted from The Spirit of Sweetgrass by NICOLE SEITZ Copyright © 2007 by Nicole Seitz. 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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Spirit of Sweetgrass: a Novel 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
FreedomInk More than 1 year ago
What if our ancestors really did look over us? What if heaven is real and sometimes we're given a second chance at life? What if we each have a destiny to fulfill and the Creator ain't calling us home till the mission is complete? Nicole Seitz has weaved a beautiful tale of family, love and forgiveness. As a native of south east Georgia, I'd like to research my lineage. I wonder if Gullah/Geechee blood courses through my veins. I'd certainly be proud to be related to the likes of Essie Mae! Amazing book. Great read. Beautiful flow. Kudos to the Author on a job well done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
very good story line. Keeps you wondering whats going to happen next. Okay read, nice homey feel. dragged a bit towards the middle of the book. but ended on a good beat.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found "The Spirit of Sweetgrass" inspiring & capivating. I was touched by the interactions of the family and friends. When we think about our spirit, mortality and life we often forget the purpose and joy our lives have to offer others. We forget how intertwined our lives are with those around us. I was thinking the story would have a certain ending then it surprised me with an ever better ending! Hurray to the author that brought this new awakening to life!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an easy read if you like fantasy. There was a plot twist that lost me as well as some members of my book club.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a soothing balm for the soul. The Low Country setting and the characters in this faith-filled book will speak to you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a sweet book, and gosh, I loved the character Essie Mae. She has the heart of an angel, and I would love to think that she is a real person, and I knew her. I laughed so much because she gave new meaning to heaven. Buy this'll feel renewed and refreshed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read other best-selling lowcountry novels, and this book was so entertaining, easy-to-read, was educational and has Christian integrity. Nicole talks about heaven and the spiritual realm in a very palpable way and with God's sovereignty and great sense of humor! I laughed out loud and I also teared up when Eliza's character was revealed. [I miscarried last summer so that hit very close to home, in a good way.] On a ligher note, whenever I see a sweetgrass lady on the side of the road here, I want to stop & ask her if she knew Essie Mae and have to remind myself that she's not really real. I can't say enough good things about this book and have recommended it to many girlfriends. It makes a great lowcountry gift and an educationl tool about the Gullah culture. Please visit Nicole's website for the latest about her book's success!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book after hearing Nicole Seitz speak. She was delightful, so I began the book thinking it would be something to pick up for a few days. Being familiar with the basket ladies on Highway 17, the book initially appealed because of familiarity, to some extent, with the subject. I could not put it down. I read until I couldn't focus, slept a few hours and got up at six to finish. Essie Mae's unconditional love for her family, and her determination to live her life as fully as possible regardless of the problems involved are an inspiration to anyone. I look forward to Nicole Seitz's next book...and the next...and the next...
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Spirit of Sweetgrass was such a delightful, thought-invoking story. I lost my husband to cancer in September, 2006. As one can imagine, I yearned for my husband to contact me as Daddy Jim did Essie Mae. Since we had visited Charleston and experienced the basket ladies in the market, {Essie Mae is right, they are not all as friendly as she}, many memories were brought to the surface such as that narrow bridge and blue ceilings on the porches of the houses on the Battery. Nichole's imagination is a joy and right-on with human emotion. I anxiously await her next novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book on a monday and finished reading it on a wensday night Ive never lived in the south and Ive never had a close family and that'ssomething i want really bad when i read this book it just made me feel like Essie May was part of me All i can say is its a great book if u dint like the book so be it but point out some good things about the book for other readers so they can give it a chance
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reading this book was so enjoyable. I laughed and I cried. The characters are so real and likeable. They're people I wish I could really meet. The story has some great twists that made me not want to put it down. I'll read this again and again and recommend it to friends.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the author's talent in allowing the reader to feel so close to Essie Mae. The book will leave you feeling satisfied and hopeful. The book is very well-written. Read if you need a lift.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book reminds me of Mary Alice Monroe's 'Sweetgrass.' Pick up a copy of that and you will see that the storylines are very similar. Monroe's is much better written and with a more effortless style. I haven't lived in Charleston since I was 24, over 10 years now, and the voice in my head and heart of Charleston, the south, and the basket weavers along 17 North is not found in this book. I recommend to readers that are looking for exceptional stories from the south to pick up books from Caron McCullers, Pat Conroy, and Anne River Siddons.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a spiritual man and this book takes advantage of that theme and the theme of the aging clearly for market driven purposes. I finished the book only because all books deserve to be read cover to cover - a courtesy to books in general - not to the author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Put it back on the shelf. Enough said.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nicole Seitz enters the head of 78-year-old, South Carolina, Sweetgrass-basket weaver, Essie Mae, for an exciting look at the Charleston lifestyle. At the basket stand on Highway 17 in Mount Pleasant, her home on Rifle Range Road, on the old bridge, and at Hibernian Hall on Charlestons¿ Meeting Street, The Spirit of Sweetgrass works in mysterious ways to ease her struggles with rising taxes and urban sprawl. The book weaves a story of love, friends, family and faith, in Gullah dialect that brings the novel to life, and adds a page to East Cooper History.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From page one, I was engrossed and intrigued by the character of basket weaver Essie Mae. I was drawn in by her lowcountry dialect and strong love for her family and those around her. What a wonderful story of love, loss, and the pure joy of heaven and the feeling of home!