"Boys in Our Books"…

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NEW-TO-ME AUTHOR REVIEW: “Shaking the Sugar Tree” by Nick Wilgus



Wise-cracking Wiley Cantrell is loud and roaringly outrageous—and he needs to be to keep his deeply religious neighbors and family in the Deep South at bay. A failed writer on food stamps, Wiley works a minimum wage job and barely manages to keep himself and his deaf son, Noah, more than a stone’s throw away from Dumpster-diving.

Noah was a meth baby and has the birth defects to prove it. He sees how lonely his father is and tries to help him find a boyfriend while Wiley struggles to help Noah have a relationship with his incarcerated mother, who believes the best way to feed a child is with a slingshot. No wonder Noah becomes Wiley’s biggest supporter when Boston nurse Jackson Ledbetter walks past Wiley’s cash register and sets his sugar tree on fire.

Jackson falls like a wet mule wearing concrete boots for Wiley’s sense of humor. And while Wiley represents much of the best of the South, Jackson is hiding a secret that could threaten this new family in the making.

When North meets South, the cultural misunderstandings are many, but so are the laughs, and the tears, but, as they say down in Dixie, it’s all good.


I cried EVERY SINGLE PAGE of this book.

I am exhausted. My eyes are swollen shut. My tear-ducts are burned dry. I have kleenex flecks all over my face.

What’s this book about? Well, the author says it best through his fictional character:

What was I writing, exactly? Romance? Drama? Slice of life? Romantic comedy? Would there be an audience for such a book? …I realized it was none of those things. It was a love story about a father and a son.

For me, this book was about…life. And life is HARD sometimes. REALLY hard A LOT of times for some. And it’s about doing your best to just…live…and to love. And what’s “best” isn’t and can’t be judged and compared with others. Someone growing up in the deep South, below poverty levels, raising a child with special needs, in an environment that condemns you for who you are…their “best” is quite different then my own. And I think maybe that was really eye-opening for me.

I started this book uncertain what to think of the lead character, Wiley Cantrell. He’s a self-proclaimed redneck. He was described looking like Darryl from “The Walking Dead”. And while I sometimes do find Darryl hot, I don’t picture him as the romantic lead in my fairy tales. So, embracing Wiley took some time. He’s not your typical Prince Charming.

But I think once you give Wiley that chance…once you let him in…game over. You fall in love. Well, at least I did. Wiley is a man who’s been dealt a shitty hand in life. And he’s made his own mistakes and bad choices. And he’s doing the best he can to be true to who he is while still making it in life and taking care of his son, Noah. Noah was a meth-baby, has a lot of emotional and learning disabilities, is deaf…and is the bravest most big-hearted child I’ve ever read in a book. I’d be proud to meet and know someone like Noah in life.

There’s a love interest, Jack.

There’s a non-existent, troubled mother, Kayla.

There are family members that are coming to their own terms with Wiley’s life.

There’s a whole lotta southern preaching and LOTS of hellfire and damnation.

There are heartwrenching emotional bits that hurt and heal.

There are tears…so many tears. Who knew that a child’s simple plea of “Why?” could open up the floodgates?

And not one single character is without their flaws…no one is even close to perfect here.

The book is exhausting. Wiley’s character is a LOT to take. His family even more so. The “character” of the South overwhelmed me.

But at the center of it all there’s love…specifically between father and son, Wiley and Noah. That relationship, that commitment, that interaction…it’s what set this book apart and made it quite special.



20528976Title: Shaking the Sugar Tree
Author: Nick Wilgus
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 304
Release Date: January 31, 2014
Purchase Links: Dreamspinner, Amazon

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This entry was posted on January 26, 2015 by in Contemporary, Reviewer: Susan and tagged , , , , .

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