Review: The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

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Review: The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred

My Thoughts

One of the most beautiful, gut-wrenching books I’ve ever read.  Wonderfully hopeful and impossibly heartbreaking, it mercilessly gripped me from beginning to perfect end.



sweet gum tree coverSweet tea, corn bread, and soup beans—everyday fare for eight-year-old Alix French, the precocious darling of a respected southern family. But nothing was ordinary about the day she met ten-year-old Nick Anderson, a boy from the wrong side of town. Armed with only a tin of bee balm and steely determination, Alix treats the raw evidence of a recent beating that mars his back, an act that changes both of their lives forever.

Through childhood disasters and teenage woes they cling together as friendship turns to love. The future looks rosy until the fateful night when Frank Anderson, Nick’s abusive father, is shot to death in his filthy trailer.

Suddenly, Nick is gone—leaving Alix alone, confused and pregnant. For the next fifteen years she wrestles with the pain of Nick’s abandonment, a bad marriage, her family and friends. But finally, she’s starting to get her life back together. Her divorce is almost final, her business is booming, and she’s content if not happy—until the day she looks up and sees Nick standing across the counter. He’s back…and he’s not alone.

Once again Alix is plunged into turmoil and pain as Nick tries to win her love, something she resists with all her strength. Only one thing might break the protective wall she’s built around her emotions—the truth about Frank Anderson’s death. But when that truth comes out and those walls crumble, neither Alix nor Nick is prepared for the emotional explosion that could destroy as well as heal.

My Review

“Life isn’t kind, and we rarely get what we want out of it. We do the best we can, and we keep putting one foot in front of the other.”

I’ve been wanting to read this book for such a long time, but for some reason or another, I never dove in, and today, I finally did and was truly blown away by the sheer beauty and power of it. This story is undoubtedly an immediate all-time favorite and one I’m sure will stay with me through the years. The Sweet Gum Tree is a story about love and loss. A story whose heart shone through like a beacon. It spoke to the hopeless romantic in me, believing that although life can be ugly and hurtful, a soulmate kind of love can withstand any tribulation. It may take time, a lot of bad choices, an endless stream of tears, heartache and herculean amounts of work, but if the will is there… and the love is there, it can truly conquer all.

“There was only one boy I wanted, and I lived for the times when I could be alone with him. It was simple. When I was with Nick, I was happy. When I wasn’t, I was restless and miserable.”

When eight-year-old Alix French meets ten-year-old Nick Anderson, the son of the town drunk, she’s determined to save him. With the undeniable evidence of abuse and the harsh realization that he didn’t have anyone that cared, she knew she had to bring him into the family fold and be his friend. Alix and Nick became inseparable friends, nurturing a bond that would last through the years as inextricable feelings morphed and intensified into their teenage years. Nick wants to give Alix the world, but is ashamed of where he came from and Alix… all she knows is that she can’t live without Nick. But one fateful day changed the rest of their lives in a way that could never be taken back. In a way that set off a chain of events which would irrevocably bring them both profound amounts of pain. Because after the untimely death of his abusive father, Nick is gone. He’s abandoned Alix, and every dream they built together over the years. He’s abandoned her with a life growing inside, to fend for herself and their child.

“You can’t turn love on and off like a light switch, no matter how hard you try. All you can do is wall it off, one brick at a time, until you’ve created an impenetrable fortress around your emotions. And once that fortress is built, you camouflage it so well that even you can’t see it anymore.”

In the next fifteen years, Alix goes through more than any one person should, dealing with grief, Nick’s absence and a crumbling marriage. With a divorce just days away from being finalized, Nick is suddenly back again and he’s not alone. Stirring up everything she worked so hard to bury, she works to re-enforce the walls she built around her heart, but it’s to no avail. Nick’s presence begins to crack those walls, with each moment… each gaze, each touch, each word that seems to have the power to shatter everything to pieces.

“Do you want to know the real reason I came back, Alix?” It was because of you. You’re my roots. Wherever you are would be home to me.”

Both Nick and Alix harbor secrets that must be revealed in order to let the past go one way or another, because the truth is that both are stuck in that time fifteen year ago, with everything going back to the day Nick left. The day where all promises made were broken.

“I promise you this. I’ll love you until the day I die even if I have to live without you. And if it’s fifty years from now, you come home, Nick Anderson. Do you hear me? I’ll be waiting on you.”

Their story is rife with gut-wrenching heartache and sadness, but also with an undeniable, soulful and passionate kind of love. With so many lies and truths befuddled together, and so many painful memories to wade through, they had to figure out whether love was truly enough. Whether the desire for happiness and the discovery of truths would be sufficient to heal the hurt that had taken root. Allred’s beautiful, alluring story drew me in so much that I cared deeply for the characters, desperately hoping they could bridge that deep and wide-reaching chasm. I loved Nick’s loyalty and heart, the intense and unfailing way he loved Alix even when faced with impossible choices. I loved Alix’s tenacity and strength, the way she survived a life so fraught with pain. Every moment in this book is brimming with emotion that I couldn’t help but feel it all acutely.  My pulse raced fiercely, my tears fell freely and my heart ached passionately for everything these two people had to endure to find their happily ever after. It wasn’t what they dreamed of in their youth, but it was perfect for the life they had suffered through and for the happiness they deserved.

“You’re the only one I’ve ever wanted, Alix, the only one I’ll ever want. That’s a promise.”


This is a standalone book.


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One Comment:

  1. Jennifer N. said:

    I just purchased this book a few days ago! Fabulous review! I have a feeling I’ll need a box of tissues… or two.


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