Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sweetest Hallelujah by Elaine Hussey

image by LibraryThing
Racism in the south is like another character in this story of love and two women- one white and the other black.  But calling it a story of love makes it sound sappy and predictable - and that is to short change it.  This is a story of worlds crashing and reshaping in the midst of deep heart break!  A story of strength and frailty.

Betty Jewel is a washed up jazz singer who burned brightly with Saint a famous trumpeter. But drugs and fame soured everything and Betty Jewel fled from her marriage to Shakerag, Mississippi to be with her mama and raise her daughter. In a last ditch effort to save that daughter, she takes out an ad in the local paper looking for someone to adopt her girl after she passes from cancer.

Cassie is the lily white widow of a much beloved local coach. Since his death she has floundered her way through life barely living and depending on her job at the local newspaper to keep her going. She notices the ad and decides it would make a wonderful human interest story.

And thus the worlds crash.

But - this is not a touchy feely feel good story.

At the heart of this story is a 10 year old girl who will soon be without a mama.  Billie, who sneaks around listening at keyholes, can not imagine a life without her mama - unless she is able to find her papa - Saint - and life with him.

Laid across the top of this story is the busted history of Jim Crow laws and lynchings in the south.

There were times this felt like a different version of The Help.  But, Betty Jewel and Cassie are not merely telling a story  - they are living it.  Their lives are interwoven in a way that the south can not rip apart.

I really liked this book.  I especially liked Billie. After teaching 10 year olds all those years - I felt like I knew her innocent and bare face.  Her bravado and her depth of pain were real to me!  The fantasies that she creates and believes in even while she knowing they can't be real - rang true!

I would recommend this!!

No comments: