Thursday, September 16, 2010

September Book Club and Book Review -- The Sweet By and By

The Sweet By and By: A Novel

The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson

My rating: 1 out of 5 stars

After a month off due to book group falling on the first night before school, it was great to be back with the gang. We were small in number but not small on opinion.

This month we read Todd Johnson’s The Sweet By and By a southern tale about a pair of nursing home friends, their caregiver, hairdresser, and a variety of family members.

Life in a nursing home is a painful existence – craziness and neglect abound, but Bernice and Margaret forge a friendship that helps them endure their situation with dignity. With the help of their nurse, Lorraine, and their hairdresser, Rhonda, this unlikely quartet forms a bond that goes beyond age and skin color.

I had a really hard time finding a groove with this book. The author’s language was awkward and clunky and his sense of timing way off. Even though I have issues with The Help, Ms. Stockett’s portrayal of Southern dialect was pitch perfect – where Ms. Johnson’s writing made the characters sound stupid instead of endearing.

This was also a book without much of a story – nothing to really link one episode with another other than the relationships between these women. There was nothing to drive this story home or to keep me reading. In fact, when I was stuck in the airport last week (a perfect opportunity to get significant pages read), I chose to walk the concourse instead.

Additionally, there was one scene where Rhonda, the hairdresser, was talking to a client. As they discussed hair color Rhonda states, “Great, let’s get started by getting you washed.” NEVER in 20 years of hair color, has a stylist EVER washed my hair BEFORE she colored it!! Did this author not consult a hairdresser about the hair color procedure? From that point on, I didn’t trust him as a story teller. And since he didn’t tell a story, I don’t think I missed much.

The Sweet By and By was more like a late picked southern peach, dried up and shriveled, after being left out in the sun too long.

Book source: personal copy

For more about this book, the author share's his personal insight and those from other readers:


For October, our selection is:
The Sunflower by Richard Paul Evans
The Sunflower: A Novel