Secrets Long Held Forge Relationships | Review of The Sweetest Hallelujah by Elaine Hussey


“The simple gestures–water when you’re faint, blankets when you’re cold, a hand when you’re falling–tell of friendships so strong they could withstand anything, even long-held secrets . . . “

~ Elaine Hussey (back cover, Sweetest Hallelujah)

” . . . The sweetest hallelujah will be when Billie can walk in the front door of any place she pleases, and nobody will tell her she doesn’t belong.”

~ Elaine Hussey, Sweetest Hallelujah (Billie’s mama to her grandmother, Queen)

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Synopsis: Betty Jewel Hughes was once the hottest black jazz singer in Memphis. But when she finds herself pregnant and alone, she gives up her dream of being a star to raise her beautiful daughter, Billie, in Shakerag, Mississippi. Now, ten years later, in 1955, Betty Jewel is dying of cancer and looking for someone to care for Billie when she’s gone. With no one she can count on, Betty Jewel does the unthinkable: she takes out a want ad seeking a loving mother for her daughter.

[Continues on Goodreads . . .]

(Book cover image and synopsis via Goodreads)

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My Thoughts:

Set in the 1950s in Shakerag, Mississippi, as race becomes a hot issue, two women — one dying in poverty and the other living a life of wealth and privilege — find themselves uncovering a long-hidden secret that will impact the lives of two families indelibly.

Betty Jewel, dying of cancer and the unwed mother of a 10-year old girl named Billie, draws on a deep courage to find Billie a home as her own life ebbs away. Desperate, Betty Jewell places an ad in the town paper and hopes the right person comes forward.

Billie, a child who should be enjoying her childhood, is lost between the knowledge her mother is dying and her previously jailed father is not the famous jazz musician he once was. A child in search of truth, the truth evades her at every turn.

Living on the other side of town in a prosperous neighborhood driving a BMW and wanting for nothing other than to have her deceased husband back is Carrie Malone. With his death went Carrie’s hopes and dreams of a family and home together. But the longing for a child never ends.

Carrie sees the ad and begins to explore the possibilities despite the stares of the populace of Shakerag. As she talks with Betty Jewel about Billie, a secret kept for years works its way to the surface. With it, the secret brings shock, hurt and pain, surprises and eventually an answer to Betty’s desire for Billie to have a good home.

Any more and I’ll give away too much.

My Recommendation: 

If, like me, you enjoy Southern fiction, The Sweetest Hallelujah will bring you to the south of the 1950s and the division between races. The Sweetest Hallelujah reveals an amazing story of love, courage, hope and an unbelievable coming together of two races long fighting over the rights of one against the other.

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Meet the Author:

elainehusseyphotobigwElaine Hussey is a writer, actress and musician who likes to describe herself as “Southern to the bone.” She lives in Mississippi, where her love of blues and admiration for the unsung heroes of her state’s history served as inspiration for The Sweetest Hallelujah . Visit her at

(Bio via Goodreads; image via Harlequin)

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Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Published: August 2013
Genre: Southern Fiction
ISBN 9780778315193
Source: Personal Library

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 Tomorrow is Friday Favorites with a favorite quote for you. Then Monday my review of Anne Allen’s No Place Like Home. Next Tuesday my interview with Bill Klaber, author of The Rebellion of Lucy Ann Lobdell. Looking forward to the discussions that follow.


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