Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Twosome Twosday: The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred

The Sweet Gum Tree
Katherine Allred
May 12, 2005

Sweet tea, corn bread, and soup beans—everyday fare for eight-year-old Alix French, the precocious darling of a respected southern family. But nothing was ordinary about the day she met ten-year-old Nick Anderson, a boy from the wrong side of town. Armed with only a tin of bee balm and steely determination, Alix treats the raw evidence of a recent beating that mars his back, an act that changes both of their lives forever.

Through childhood disasters and teenage woes they cling together as friendship turns to love. The future looks rosy until the fateful night when Frank Anderson, Nick's abusive father, is shot to death in his filthy trailer.

Suddenly, Nick is gone—leaving Alix alone, confused and pregnant. For the next fifteen years she wrestles with the pain of Nick's abandonment, a bad marriage, her family and friends. But finally, she's starting to get her life back together. Her divorce is almost final, her business is booming, and she's content if not happy—until the day she looks up and sees Nick standing across the counter. He's back…and he's not alone.

Once again Alix is plunged into turmoil and pain as Nick tries to win her love, something she resists with all her strength. Only one thing might break the protective wall she's built around her emotions—the truth about Frank Anderson's death. But when that truth comes out and those walls crumble, neither Alix nor Nick is prepared for the emotional explosion that could destroy as well as heal.

5 smooches

“No one should have to go through life with only half a heart”
Alix French gave her heart away to Nick Anderson when she was only 8 years old...  

Nick is two years her senior and being raised by his drunk and abusive father, on the town junkyard.   Rather than be put off, Alix recognizes that Nick needs help and is determined to be his savior.  She explains his situation to her family, who immediately take Nick under their wing.  He becomes a constant presence in her life.

“…I live in a junkyard.  Who’d want to marry me?”
“I’ll marry you…”
The entire story is told through Alix’s POV.  We watch her bond with Nick progress from childhood friend, to first crush, first love, and finally first heartbreak.

“…There are more kinds of hurt than physical ones, hurts that run ever deeper and leave bigger scars, and not even Nick could protect me from himself.”
Nick keeps secrets that ultimately result in their being torn apart. 

“You have to forget about me, Peewee.”
“Can you forget about me?”
His eyes shimmered with tears, “No.  Not if I live to be a hundred.”
“Then don’t ask me to do what you can’t”
The Sweet Gum Tree is one of the BEST books I have read this year. I LOVED the writing.  I loved the slow progression of Nick and Alix’s relationship.  The characters were well developed and I truly felt like I knew these people.  There are many lessons that can be taken from this book.  I think the biggest being that a secret has the power to alter and destroy lives.  What started off as a sweet, wholesome, girl next door love story quickly turns gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, tear-jerking and extremely frustrating.  There are many times I wanted to slap Alix and Nick.  I ached for them.  I wanted to go back to that pivotal moment that irrevocably changed so many lives. 

“I promise you this.  I’ll love you until the day I die even if I have to live without you.  And if it’s fifty years from now, you come home, Nick Anderson.  Do you hear me?  I’ll be waiting on you.”

4.5 - I felt all the feels!!!! - Smooches

Holy hell this book was an emotional roller coaster and I loved every happy/sad/pissed off moment of it!

The Sweet Gum Tree is Alix French's story.  She's a little Southern darling, born into priviledge but raised with zero entitlement.  At eight years old, she's kind, sweet, loving and generous and decides that saving Nick Anderson, a boy from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks, is her mission in life.

Nick and Alix become quick friends and Alix's family takes a special interest in him.  He's a good kid but his life is rough ... his father is an abusive drunk and with no mother in the picture he has no one to turn to.

Over the years, Alix and Nick's relationship grows to young love ...
“You better wait on me, damn it.”
”I don’t think I have much choice.” He brushed my hair back. “You’re the only one I’ve ever wanted, Alix, the only one I’ll ever want. That’s a promise.”  
... and they quickly learn that love is most definitely not always enough.  Lines are drawn.  Choices are made.  And consequences ensue.
“I promise you this. I’ll love you until the day I die even if I have to live without you. And if it’s fifty years from now, you come home, Nick Anderson. Do you hear me? I’ll be waiting on you.”  -  Alix
The Sweet Gum Tree tells Alix and Nick's story, spanning almost thirty years.  Their story covers the emotional gamet ... full of love and heartache and everything in-between.
“God, I can’t lose you again.” His whisper was harsh, filled with pain. “Not now, when I’ve waited so long to hold you. I think it would kill me. But I’m so damn scared you’ll hate me when you find out the truth.” - Nick
Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite reads this year.  I felt so connected to Alix ... we meet her as a child and the book is told from her POV.  Everything she encounters and endures ... I was right there with her.  Her ups and downs ... the highs and lows of her life .... GAH!!!!!  I can not recommend this book enough!

The Sweet Gum Tree was a TRHOR Group Read.   Here's what our readers thought!

This was the most beautifully written and heart-wrenching book I have read in a long time.  - Beth

It was a heartwarming and beautifully written book about two people who discovered just how painful love can be and the tests to see if their love was enough.  It was a sweet 'vanilla' read that I would recommend to anyone!  - Hilarie

Katherine Allred was born in Arkansas and spent her formative years there learning to love books at her grandfather's knee. When she was five, her mother remarried and moved them to Michigan, where they stayed for the next ten years. At age fifteen, the entire family moved back home to Arkansas, and she's been there ever since, except for brief stints in other countries and states while her hubby was in the army.

After receiving a BS in journalism from Arkansas State University, Katherine began her writing in earnest. To date, she's had seven books published, with number eight being released in April, 2009, and number nine just completed.

A member of Romance Writers of America, Katherine has achieved many awards for her novels, including the 2006 EPPIE award, winning the PASIC Book of Your Heart contest in 2002, and having a novel named Best Book of the Year by Romance Reviews Today in 2005. She currently writes for Eos, the science fiction imprint of Harper Collins Publishing.

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