Title ~ Shaking the Sugar Tree
Author ~ Nick Wilgus
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Genre ~ M/M Romance
Release date ~ 31st January 2014
Rating ~ 5 Stars
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.
So, this is another book I've read recently that had me dithering about how to do it justice and give it the review it deserves. Some books you read have you tied in knots because they're so good it's hard to put down in words just how deeply they impacted on you. It’s at times like this, I'd love to be able to just blast everyone with 'Emotion-O-Rama' if there was such a thing, because it would get across perfectly the feelings this wonderful story evoked in me and a lot my friends who've already had it in their hands.
Shaking The Sugar Tree is definitely a story choc full of intense mixed emotions. The comedic side of the book shows itself in many ways. Wiley is a funny guy. He's witty, self-deprecating and a real southern charmer but like all funny guys his humour also masks all the bullshit going on in his life....and he has a lot, bless him. Then there's Pawpaw. What can I say about him? He's a rude, irascible, eccentric, insulting old man who had my jaw dropping with the stuff that came out of his mouth, but however non PC he was, there was never any true malice in him whatsoever, he is what he is and he had me snorting and laughing out loud at his (very) naughty comments. I loved how Wiley described him to Jackson, who's left pretty much speechless by his antics the first time he meets the old guy.
"We don't hide crazy," I said. "We put it on the porch and let it entertain the neighbours.”
Then came the times when I had kindle tantrums because of the bigotry and homophobia still raising its ugly head in this Bible Belt, Southern Community. Boy did that aspect bring out my angry side but it was necessary to the plot and part of what makes this story such an extraordinary journey. You wonder why Wiley doesn't just up and leave but the simple truth is like most of us, he still feels the pull of his roots to his birth place because there are good memories too, so despite the crap he has thrown at him, he stays. It’s his unconditional love for the one male in his life who truly has his heart that makes him put up with all the negativity he faces and I loved him for that.
Which brings me to the little man who totally stole my heart as well. I can't tell you how many times Noah had my lip quivering. Tears running down my face to the point where I couldn't see to read. I cried so hard for this adorable, little fighter who through no fault of his own had been thrown so many curve balls in his young life, that I just wanted to jump into the story, hug the pants off him and show him just how loveable he is! The scenes with his mother and his grandparents being a major catalyst for a lot of the crying sessions and heartache, but sometimes it was just little everyday things he struggled with, things we take for granted, that touched me to the core. Thankfully it’s balanced by the tons of love and affection he gets from Wiley and their relationship is a joy to watch, but despite their closeness, Wiley is not getting all he wants from life. Being openly gay in a Southern town is far from easy. He's working a tiring, dead end job just so he can raise ten year old Noah, a meth baby, whose deafness, fragility and psychological problems have been challenging over the years, to say the least. His family try but they aren't always in his corner as they constantly challenge him with their out-dated religious views about him being a single gay dad. There were times when I wanted to scream at them because they were so stubborn and obtuse! The family dinners were both funny and frustrating to read because Pawpaw was at his irreverent best and the rest, especially Bill, his brother, at their god fearing worst.
Last but not least, his love life sucks! Wiley wants a man and Noah wants him to have one, even though his insecurities make him worry that his daddy won't love him the same if he does. Omg I adored that kid! Then Jackson, a beautiful Yankee paediatric nurse drops into his and Noah's life and it looks like love is finally on the horizon. Is it an easy journey getting there? Of course it isn't, Jack has his own baggage that nearly puts a spoke in the wheel, but it’s certainly a story and a half watching them get to their final destination, which I have to say left me happy, hopeful and smiling.
Honestly I can't recommend this highly enough. It's so different. Almost hard to pin it into a category because even though there's a romance running through it, I don't think you can class it as your common or garden m/m love story. This is very much a character lead book, with a cast of larger than life people. Some you will love with a passion, others you'll hate with equal intensity, but you'll never forget one single persona in its pages and you'll be thinking about it long after you've closed your copy.
I think the character of Wiley in author mode sums this up the best when he writes:
I can't argue with that, but I will add the 'window dressing' was amazing!
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