Cold Sassy Tree opens with Grandpa Blakeslee telling his daughters that he plans to marry Love Simpson only three weeks after the death of his wife. The women are scandalized, as is the town. The new relationship is central to the novel. In its beginning, Love and Rucker are living together as a man and his housekeeper. In agreeing to this arrangement, Miss Love inherits the Blakeslee house and furnishings. Unfortunately, she has no family of her own and was hoping to be accepted by Mary Willis, Loma, and the town. The town is further scandalized when a man, Mr. McAllister, a huge Texan, arrives at the Blakeslee home with a silver-trimmed saddle. McAllister is Love’s former fiancé, who, we later learn, dumped her when she told him about being raped by her father when she was twelve. McAllister passionately kisses Miss Love and they are seen by one of the town gossips. Love finds herself removed as the Methodist church’s piano player. She and Rucker start to hold their own church services in the house which are too jolly for the town, and more scandal ensues.
Everything Miss Love does seems to turn out wrong. The difficulty of living in a small town is apparent to the reader. Cold Sassy Tree is a great slice of life from Georgia at the turn of the century (1906). The narration reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird although this book does not delve as deeply into racism and social issues. However, Will comes to understand the unfair treatment of African-Americans and of “lint-heads” or children who must work in the local mill. This novel is a good choice for a work with which to begin the junior project.