"How Sweet the Sound is a book about the worst things in the world, written in the best way possible."
That's what I told my friend the night she asked me what I was reading.
I can't summarize the plot- that would ruin the twists and turns that come with souls being revealed.
I can't quote enough passages to show you the full power of the writing- you need to absorb it for yourself.
(The way Amy Sorrells writes, it doesn't feel like this story is just being told, it feels like it's being unfolded in front of you, word by word.)
Starting on Thanksgiving Day 1979 and stretching almost two years, this is Anni and Comfort's story.
Anniston is a Harlan family granddaughter, Comfort is her aunt. Being a Harlan means having a legacy: of hard-earned money, pristine reputations, and a lovely pecan plantation. That's how it looks to the outside. On the inside, it's a legacy of parental disconnection, bitterness, spirit-shattering child abuse, and shame held close to the chest.
That world, as the Harlan's knew it, is about to fall apart, and Anni and Comfort will need their Abba Father to knit the fractured, crushed pieces together into a pattern of healing.
Amy Sorrells has taken the Biblical story of Tamar and given it new life.
As she said, she's not satisfied with the ending of Tamar's story, and we shouldn't be either. The idea of Tamar spending the rest of her days as a silent, abandoned woman is not good enough. That's why she dedicated this book to the silent ones, the one's who've yet to recover their voices.
You will probably have to set this book down from time to time, squeeze it in your hand, and pray that the Light that Amy shines into this story would pour clearly into every darkness. You'll have to pause, and reread sentences that make you feel the weather and smell the air and taste the food.
You'll long for Comfort to see herself as her God and her beloved Solly see her. You'll want Anni to have a chance to make a true friend.
May every Comfort/Tamar find real hope and believe the truth about herself, and may every Anni receive the wise guidance that she needs to find her special place in the world.
Last thought... I did *love* Ernestine as a character. She's the kind of lady I want to grown up and be. Intelligent, calm, wise, and ready to reach out her hands and do for those she loves.
Anni's childhood comes to an end the day her uncle rapes his sister, then witnesses her uncle murdering her father in a confrontation about the attack. Sunny and her mother move in with her grandparents, who are themselves grieving the loss of their two sons, but in different ways. Vaughan tries to comfort Anni and her mother, but Princella seems to think everything is the fault of Anni's father.
The story is told from the viewpoints of Anni and Comfort, Anni's aunt. It's written in first person, but the two viewpoints are so different there is no chance of confusing them. Anni is thirteen, so her scenes are filtered through her adolescence and first love, while Comfort's scenes are bleak to begin with, but thaw as the novel progresses, as she begins to hear from God and accept his healing.
How Sweet the Sound isn't a light read. It moves between the present and the past, and as we read, we learn more about the histories of the characters and the events that have shaped them into the people we see. I have to say that I didn't think a teenager (Anni) should be exposed to some of these facts, but she's had to grow up fast. Princella was a fascinating character, one I find difficult to understand even now.
This is the debut novel from Amy K Sorrells, and I'll certainly be keen to see what comes next. Her writing is excellent, particularly the feel of her words and her use of imagery, and she dealt with some difficult subjects in a sensitive manner. Worth reading.
Thanks to David C Cook and NetGalley for providing a free book for review.
What a powerful story. This book reveals and heals through the power of love. I'm a better person for having read this tender-but-truthful coming-of-age tale. Janalyn Voigt, literary judge and author of DawnSinger