Tag Archives: Southern Fiction

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 www.ElaineHussey.com.

(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.

AND THE WINNER OF A Southern Place Is . . .

Image provided by WOW! Women on Writing

Image provided by WOW! Women on Writing

by Elaine Drennon Little
Published: May 2013
Publisher: WiDo Publishing
Genre: Fiction
Source: WOW! Women on Writing

Last week I reviewed and hosted a giveaway of Elaine Little Drennon’s newest book, A Southern Place.

Today I am happy to announce the winner of the giveaway is *drumroll, here*


blogger at Plain and Fancy.

Congratulations to Marian, and thanks to all those who entered.

A Southern Place by Elaine Drennon Little | WOW! Women on Writing Blog Tour Review and Giveaway

Image provided by WOW! Women on Writing

Image provided by WOW! Women on Writing

by Elaine Drennon Little
Published: May 2013
Publisher: WiDo Publishing
Genre: Fiction
Source: WOW! Women on Writing

Synopsis: A Southern Place is a moving book that is expertly written! Mary Jane Hatcher–everyone calls her Mojo–is beat up bad. She’s in the ICU of Phoebe Putney, the largest hospital in South Georgia, barely able to talk. How Mojo goes from being that skinny little girl in Nolan, a small forgotten town along the Flint River, to the young woman now fighting for her life, is where this story begins and ends.

Mojo, her mama Delores and her Uncle Calvin Mullinax, like most folks in Nolan, have just tried to make the best of it. Of course, people aren’t always what they seem, and Phil Foster–the handsome, spoiled son of the richest man in the county–is no exception.

As the story of the Mullinax family unfolds, Mojo discovers a family’s legacy can be many things: a piece of earth, a familiar dwelling, a shared bond. And although she doesn’t know why she feels such a bond with Phil Foster, it is there all the same, family or not. And she likes to think we all have us a fresh start. Like her mama always said, the past is all just water under the bridge. Mojo, after going to hell and back, finally comes to understand what that means. (Copy provided by WOW!)

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I am pleased to have been given the opportunity to take part in this book tour sponsored by WOW! Women on Writing by reading and reviewing A Southern Place by Elaine Drennon Little. Additionally, the author and WOW! will be giving away a copy of A Southern Place to one lucky commenter.

My Thoughts:

Drawn to this book because of my southern roots, I felt myself gritting my teeth and standing taller to help Mary Jane Hatcher, better known as Mojo, fight the next battle. Not that Mojo didn’t have enough spitfire in her to do it on her own because she did. I have friends from my days in the south who lived and survived the life that Elaine Drennon Little paints so well in A Southern Place.

Little opens the book with Mojo fighting for her life, and that is where the story ends some 24 chapters later. Mojo’s story covers a mere six years, 1989-1995, but began long before the opening chapter. Her family before her had never had it easy — always on the outside looking in, never having quite enough, always looking for acceptance.

Little has taken Mojo’s story and expertly shares it with her readers in such a way that we know something good will come to Mojo. Yet each time a glint appears on the horizon of Mojo’s existence someone or something comes along to destroy her hopes and often what she believes might be love.

Mojo’s character, who grows from a skinny young girl to a woman standing on her own, is cleverly crafted with Little’s unique ability to draw a visual on the page of an amazing and strong creation.

Then, as she transitions back in time to share Mojo’s beginnings with us, we meet Mojo’s mama, Delores, and Uncle Calvin. We are given the true picture of how family before her lived — Delores working in a factory sewing women’s underwear and Calvin working the land but not his own, someone else’s. And their parents before them working hard and scrabbling for everything they had.

The tragedies in Delores and Calvin’s lives shape the future for Mojo. Little’s packing of Mojo’s roots between the opening and closing chapters as she does provides a perfect story arc. We begin in tension, we level out as we learn the background for Mojo’s existence and life, and we end in tension. I can’t express strongly enough how well planned this book is. Swiftly moving, story to story, character to character, A Southern Place never leaves the reading wanting for more, because more waits on the next page.

Little has authentically and genuinely plucked the south of this time period accurately out and placed it in her debut novel. Her characters are also authentically created and developed, and Little’s use of the dialect could not be more accurate. A joy to read!

Reading Mojo’s story and then stepping out of her world and back into my own was somewhat like culture shock and awakening. Life between 1989 and 1995 in some parts of our country haven’t changed that much. There are still Mojos fighting to survive and to live without enough to raise their families. Little’s portrayal of Mojo, however, gives hope and encouragement to anyone who has had or is experiencing struggles in everyday life.

MY RECOMMENDATION: A Southern Place is an interesting look back at the South of the ’80s and 90s from the perspective of a character who could be classified as a have-not in the purest sense of the term. Yet, Little uses that life to show the strength of character and what it can do for anyone who is willing to take a chance. This book is a quick read and perfect for a rainy day or a summer weekend, before they’re all gone!

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Image provided by WOW!

Image provided by WOW!

Adopted at birth, Elaine lived her first twenty years on her parents’ agricultural farm in rural southern Georgia. She was a public school music teacher for twenty-seven years, and continued to dabble with sideline interests in spite of her paid profession. Playing in her first band at age fourteen, she seemed to almost always be involved in at least one band or another. Elaine’s writing began in high school, publishing in local newspapers, then educational journals, then later in online fiction journals. In 2008 she enrolled in the MFA program at Spalding University in Louisville, where upon graduation finished her second novel manuscript. Recently retiring after eleven years as a high school chorus and drama director, Elaine now lives in north Georgia with her husband, an ever-growing library of used books, and many adopted animals.

Find out more about this author by visiting her online:

Author blog:

Author Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/elaine.d.little

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I was provided a copy of A Southern Place by WOW! Women on Writing and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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If you would like to enter for a chance to win a copy of A Southern Place by Elaine Drennon Little, simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

If you are reading this anywhere other than my blog, such as on Facebook, in an email, or on Goodreads, please hop on over to my blog, Found Between the Covers. Only comments left on my blog will be entered into the giveaway.

The deadline for this contest is Wednesday, August 28, 2013, at noon. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and will be contacted privately via email as well as an announcement in a blog post here next week.

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UP NEXT:  On Friday, August 23rd, I’ll be sharing with you what’s in my reading line-up for the next few weeks and months. Be thinking about your own and share with the rest of us.

When the Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey

By Billy Coffey
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Published: June 4, 2013
Genre: Southern Fiction | Christian Fiction | Christian
Source: BookSneeze.com

Leah is a child from away, isolated from her peers because of her stutter. But then she begins painting scenes that are epic in scope, brilliant in detail, and suffused with rich, prophetic imagery. When the event foreshadowed in the first painting dramatically comes true, the town of Mattingly takes notice.

Leah attributes her ability to foretell the future to an invisible friend she calls the Rainbow Man. Some of the townsfolk are enchanted with her. Others fear her. But there is one thing they all agree on—there is no such thing as the Rainbow Man.

Her father, the town psychologist, is falling apart over his inability to heal his daughter or fix his marriage. And the town minister is unraveled by the notion a mere child with no formal training may be hearing from God more clearly than he does.

While the town bickers over what to do with this strange child, the content of Leah’s paintings grows darker. Still, Leah insists that the Rainbow Man’s heart is pure. But then a dramatic and tragic turn of events leaves the town reeling and places everyone’s lives in danger. Now the people of Mattingly face a single choice:

Will they cling to what they know . . . or embrace the things Leah believes in that cannot be seen?

(Synopsis: Author’s website)

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My Thoughts:

When Mockingbirds Sing is the epitome of the book which at its ending leaves you wishing there was one more page to turn and then one more and then . . . well, you get the picture, don’t you? I did not want this book to end. 

Billy Coffey is a masterful storyteller. His characters come alive, and some jump off the page into your heart. Others you don’t care for at all. Scenes evolve before your eyes as if an artist was wielding his paint brushes across the canvas while you’re reading. The plot maintains a highly readable pace, holding your interest which is captured immediately upon reading the first page.

Coffey has created a small town with its foibles and quirks and yes, its characters. Into Mattingly, Virginia, he has dropped some city folk from Away. Being from Away tends to make life difficult for those who come from there. Add to that the fact that young Leah Norcross stutters, and life burgeons from difficult to impossible and miserable.

Fortunately, during a birthday celebration, Leah is befriended by Allie Granderson, whom I believe senses Leah needs a friend. Allie is bold and steps right up to fill the job.

Enter Leah’s friend, The Rainbow Man. However, only Leah sees him and hears him. But Leah believes in him with all her might. Leah’s Rainbow Man concerns her psychologist father, Tom Norcross, who has demons he struggles with from a previous life it seems. And his marriage to Ellen isn’t going so smoothly either. A bit more tension added to the story line.

As soon as the Mattingly folks learn of Leah’s Rainbow Man and her belief in him plus his ability to help Leah foretell the future, they begin to take sides — some against Leah because they are afraid, others standing with her because they are enchanted with her abilities. And the town’s minister begins to fall apart at the idea a child could hear more clearly than he the voice of God.

If we take a deep look at the people of Mattingly, I believe we see ourselves, whether we believe in a higher power or not. Judgment cast on others because of where they come from happens daily. Choosing to shun another because of an impairment in speech or other challenge isn’t all that uncommon, is it? And what about fearing what another might say about their own relationship with a higher power?

Has Billy Coffey imagined Mattingly, or has he described for us any small or large town in America? Has he opened the door for us to take a close look at how we treat our neighbors? Is the author attempting to open our eyes and hearts to something bigger than ourselves?

For the answers to these questions, you’ll have to read When Mockingbirds Sing.  I promise you will not be disappointed, whether you read it as Southern fiction or Christian fiction. Coffey’s transcendent writing style will hold your attention and keep you entertained.

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Favorite Passage:

“He c-comes to us all, Ruh-Reverend. He’s always w-with us. You and me aren’t duh-different. No one’s duh-different. It’s just that I nuh-know I’m small and everyone else thinks they’re buh-big. That’s why no one else c-can see Him. They pruh-pray and sing and say they luh-love Him, but d-deep down they think they know beh-better than He does. They d-do their own things because they thuh-think they’re b-big enough. But they’re not. No one’s big enough.”

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Meet the Author: 

Image: Joanne Coffey

Image: Joanne Coffey

Billy Coffey’s critically acclaimed books combine rural
Southern charm with a vision far beyond the ordinary.
He is a regular contributor to several publications,
where he writes about faith and life.
Billy lives with his wife and two children in
Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
Visit him at BillyCoffee.com.
(From the back cover of When Mockingbirds Sing.)

Billy Coffey has published two other novels,
Snow Day (2010) and Paper Angels (2011),
with two more on the way by Thomas Nelson.

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