I’ve always been a “cover” gal. One look at this beauty and mmm… I was caught.
Speaks to me of eras I’m always drawn to (the 1930’s and 40’s). Of springtime blossoms and lovely old homes. Of tenderness and…mystery. Not necessarily the detective kind (though there does turn out to be just a bit of that in this story), but of wondering what is behind the gentle sorrow in those eyes and wanting to get to know this character. Loving the bygone sweetness of her face, reminiscent of tender old photos from my mom’s (and her mom’s) youth. And the endearing typeface that perfectly matches the title.
The cinch-er though is the author’s name. Someone whose work I first “met” and “fell in love with” a year or so ago in the word-beauty of her novel The Swan House – and have been following ever since. A new Musser novel? Simply…a must-read.
The Sweetest Thing is that – and so much more. Don’t get me wrong – that does not mean sugary. Writer Lynn Austin (another favorite of mine) calls it “A touching story of friendship and faith,” saying “Musser’s characters are as real and unforgettable as the friends I grew up with.” Something I’ve said about Austin’s writing as well, and definitely on the mark here.
Another test of a good book for me is being captured by the first few lines… This one starts in the voice of Atlanta private high school student Perri Singleton, and instantly made me want to know more:
“I met Dobbs on the day my world fell apart. It was 1933, and most everyone else’s world in the good ol’ United States of America had fallen apart years ago. But I had survived virtually unscathed for four years. The Depression, as far as I could tell, had hardly invaded my niche of paradise. And then it came to a screeching halt…the banks died, and so did my world.”
Musser’s stories usually begin with a hint of supreme tragedy and this one is no different. But out of the dark cloud-studded sky of sorrow comes truth out of lies, hope out of despair, and a kindred spirit connection deeper than any Perri or her new sister-of-the-heart, “Dobbs,” has ever known. The story is alternately told in first person by Perri, a touch on the spoiled but well-meaning side, coming from a tea dance and matinee cinema world and Dobbs, the daughter of an itinerant Chicago-based preacher. Faith-filled, passionate and fiercely her own person – Dobbs is sent to her father’s wealthier and estranged southern family because of financial need. From the moment she steps off the train, she sees disapproval in Perri’s eyes, recognizes she is a pariah among the elegantly genteel. But her heart overlooks all that when she hears of Perri’s heartbreaking loss, and she moves me with her words:
“I closed my eyes and saw pretty Perri Singleton disapproving of me, her eyes flashing defiance – albeit a very quiet and respectable defiance – as well as a fierce kind of pride. She seemed like a girl who had determination and spunk. I wondered if she had enough to get her through this tragedy. And as I imagined her sitting somewhere in her house, tears running down her cheeks…I just felt my heart rip in two, and I knew what she needed.”
Reaching out to Perri, Dobbs slips her a little book that once helped her in a similar loss and time of tremendous doubt… an unpretentious book of heart-lifting words and photos that is to lead Perri in a new expression of herself she hadn’t know was there – her artistic eye for beauty and light captured on film. And to an unexpected, deeply true friendship between two seemingly opposite, but tenderly united, people who are strengthened in each other even as they are tested through times of jealousy, secrets and disloyalty.
Yes, this story is that. Faith and doubt and faith again. Growing up from heartbreak and finding peace. Forging against all odds, and uncovering mysterious hidden secrets. It is all of that…and…delightfully… more.
Lyrical, beautiful writing that lifts the heart and makes it long for the story to go on and on. Images and characters so real that you find yourself thinking about them long after the book is put down and looking forward to knowing them more. A story that grips the heart and keeps it there in steady building momentum to when all is revealed about the sweetest thing and just what that is.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Elizabeth Musser, an Atlanta native, studied English and French literature at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. While at Vanderbilt, she had the opportunity to spend a semester in Aix-en-Provence, France. After graduation, she spent eight months training for the mission field in Chicago, Illinois and then two years serving in a tiny Protestant church in Eastern France where she met her future husband.
A novelist who writes what she calls “entertainment with a soul,” Elizabeth finds her work as a mother, wife, author and missionary filled with challenges and chances to see God’s hand at work daily in her life. Inspiration for her novels come both from her experiences growing up in Atlanta as well as through the people she meets in her work in France. Many conversations within her novels are inspired from real-life conversations with skeptics and seekers alike.
The Sweetest Thing is Elizabeth’s eighth novel. Her acclaimed novel, The Swan House, was a Book Sense bestseller list in the Southeast and was selected as one of the top Christian books for 2001 by Amazon’s editors. To learn more, visit http://www.elizabethmusser.com.