Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Review: How Sweet It Is by Alice J. Wisler

Title:  How Sweet It Is
Author:  Alice J. Wisler
Publisher:  Bethany House
Format:  Softcover
ISBN:  978-0-7642-0478-4

I really didn't want to review another book right now.  I had decided not to take on more books, but then the email from Bethany House arrived.  The description of How Sweet It Is, and the cover art, compelled me.  I wanted to know more about Deena and her new life in the mountains of North Carolina.  So I requested the book to review.

This second book by Alice J. Wisler is charming southern fiction.  I have not read much southern fiction other than Gone With The Wind.  I didn't even realize it was a genre in its own right.  How Sweet It Is was a good introduction to a new (to me) genre.

How Sweet It Is
is written as a  first person narrative, from the thoughts of Deena Livingston.  Deena tells her own story of moving to a new community, trying to recover from her physical and emotional scars.  She wants a new life, and her own cake-decorating business in the small mountain community where her Grandpa was so well-loved.

Deena is quiet, introspective, and remote.  Trained to keep her feelings hidden, she even struggles to reveal them to herself.  A journal gifted to her by her career mentor encourages her to open her heart to herself and to God.  A note left from her grandfather and his well-worn Bible challenge her to trust God with all of her life, her heart, and her hurt.  But it is the children she is required to give cooking lessons that teach her that it is okay to have scars, and to share them with others.  While she tries to push her new community away, two men refuse to be pushed away.   They work to pull her out of her self-imposed isolation, each in his own unique way.

Just as I have not read much southern fiction, I have also not read many books written in a first person narrative style.  It is an unusual technique that draws you right into the heart of Deena.  You are eye-witness to her melancholy, her pain, and her fears.  You relive her memories with her, and you walk through her emotional recovery, as well.

How Sweet It Is is a gentle and melancholy book.  The ending is happy, yet sedate.  It reminds me of a slow southern drawl and a warm summer breeze.  Although this book is not full of heart-pounding romance, adventure, or mystery ... I couldn't put it down.  I wanted to keep reading and see how Deena would heal and reach out to God and others once more.

Alice J. Wisler has created a wonderful cast of characters, and an excellent story.  She slowly reveals bits and pieces of each character throughout the story.   The reader comes to know their stories slowly, just as Deena does.  Although there is romance in this book, it is understated, and does not overwhelm the story or the character development.  Most of all, the story is authentic; it isn't full of perfect lives and gorgeous women. 

I fell in love with the characters in this story, and part of me hopes for a sequel so I can spend more time with Regena Lorraine, Jonas, Zack, and Deena.  But then the mystery of the future would be gone, and so would part of the story's vibrance.

I definitely recommend How Sweet It Is to anyone looking for a gentle, inspirational, and authentic read. 

Trusting in Him,

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