by Mary Alice Monroe

July 2005
ISBN: 0-7783-2187-8
Reviewer Graphic Button Mira Books

Mary Alice Monroe’s newest offering, Sweetgrass is the story of the Blakely family. They have lived on the family land for generations, and over the course of that time have struggled to keep the land. The modern day Blakely parents are no different…their struggle is not only to maintain the land, but to impart in their children the same pride in the land that Preston Blakely, the current family patriarch, was raised with.

Preston Blakely loves the land with all his heart, and has struggled over the years to maintain the remaining acres for his family. He’s dealt with one natural disaster after another, but now it’s a man made disaster which might be the down fall of the plantation known as Sweetgrass. Taxes are being raised, and without the money to pay them the family homestead could be stripped from the Blakely's.

If this wasn’t enough to try to deal with the family is served another potentially more deadly hand when Preston has a stroke and is rendered unable to function in the most basic of manners needed to sustain life. He requires constant care, and his wife, Mama June is determined that he shall not only receive that care, but receive it on the grounds of Sweetgrass. She begins an uphill battle to restore Preston to the man he was. She must dig deep inside herself, and explore parts of her psyche that she thought long since buried and forgotten.

The care of Preston extends to his estranged son, his daughter whom no longer considers herself to be a Blakely because of her marriage to a man who has aligned himself with Preston’s sister Adele, and her land development company. Also involved in the care of Preston is Nona Bennett. Her family and the Blakely’s connection extend back in time to the era of slavery. After the freeing of the slaves Nona’s ancestors continued working Sweetgrass for pay. Nona herself stayed until the children no longer needed a nanny then she moved on.

Sweetgrass is in my opinion not a romance though throughout there are romantic undertones. Sweetgrass is in my opinion a work of women’s fiction, and a story not to be missed. The flashbacks, while often annoying in storytelling, are vital to the telling of the Blakely’s story and are well done.

Sweetgrass is a book that will touch reader’s emotions and not let go until the final page has been turned. Ms. Monroe has written a story that will have readers cheering the Blakely’s on in their dream of maintaining Sweetgrass for future generations, for the way family and friends can set aside differences to help one another, and through that help can find a new even stronger bond.

Clear a space on your keeper shelf because you’ll be adding a new title.

Reviewed in June 2005 by Sandi.

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