Picks and Pans Review: Cold Sassy Tree

updated 12/17/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/17/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Olive Ann Burns.

Cold Sassy is the rural Georgia community where this lovely novel is set. The story of one family just after the turn of the century, it is told by Will Tweedy, a 14-year-old boy, whose life is dominated by his salty grandfather, Rucker Blakeslee. The grandfather owns the town's general store. When Granny Blakeslee dies and the old man ups and marries a pretty young milliner, who works in his store, the whole town is, of course, shocked. Burns, 60, wrote this first novel while undergoing treatment for cancer. And like many country-tale tellers, she is fascinated with illnesses, death and burial, (Before one funeral, a child's bright red hair seems too cheerful, so her aunt dyes it black.) There are people in Cold Sassy, which was named for a big sassafras tree, who want to give the place a new name. At the end the old order gives way, though not before Burns charms the dickens out of the place with such language as this: "Grandpa Tweedy always claimed he couldn't work. 'My veins is too small,' he'd say, 'My blood jest cain't get th'ew fast enough to let me do much.' " (Ticknorg, Fields, $16.95)

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