This book started sweet-talking me during the intro, where the author describes “blackberries and wild plums, wild grapes and muscadines.” (Although I did have to look up muscadines; they’re a type of grape used to make wine, jelly, syrup, and sauce, in case you were wondering :)
As I’m sure you can already tell, Alabama-based Sweet Music hits a very sentimental note, even for readers who didn’t grow up in the South. The story of 8-year-old cousins Lily Claire and Willie T. speaks to everyone who’s ever known the magic of childhood imagination, had an eccentric relative or two, lived an old wives’ tale…or been warmed from within by a home-cooked meal.
The feel-good food is (as with any true Southern tale) peppered throughout the book, from a breakfast of eggs, grits, bacon, and biscuits, to “cinnamon sweet persimmon cookies” after the first frost, to the spread of everything from butter beans to pecan pralines that Aunt Rachel’s going to make for the family gathering after Harold’s funeral. But even beyond that, there are scenes real enough for readers to see, hear, smell, and practically taste.
The best of these for me was the 4th of July BBQ – a holiday event that evokes almost universal memories for all Americans. Lily’s dad cuts open a huge watermelon “so red and ripe inside, it popped open with a loud cracking sound, and the air was filled with the luscious sweet smell.” Remembering that day in your own life, now? You’ve surely been there at least once!
For such a short book (just over 100 pages), Sweet Music packs in several such walk-into-the-scene moments, and then if you want to really bring the story to life, the recipes for some of the Southern treats are tagged on at the end, too. :)