In I’ll Stand By You, Sharon Sala returns to Blessings, Georgia, the locale of her novel The Curl Up And Dye and e-novella Color Me Bad, stand-alone stories tied together by the town and its often quirky inhabitants, and especially by Ruby Dye and her gossip-central beauty salon.
In this latest installment, Dori Grant, a determined seventeen year old with a six-month-old baby and Johnny Pine, a twenty year old raising his two younger brothers, are brought together by tragedy. Both of them are viewed with suspicion by most of the townsfolk, Dori because she has never reveled the name of her baby’s father and Johnny because his father is in prison, his mother dead of a drug overdose.
Dori and Johnny, who knew each other only slightly back in the day when they were in school, soon find that with teamwork they may be able to care for the three little boys in their charge. But as the obstacles grow, so do the challenges: just how far will they go to keep things together? And how far will some of their neighbors go to tear them apart?
I’ll Stand by You is a sweet, warm novel of small town life, both the good and the bad. Its real strength lies in its characters: Dori, Johnny, and especially the two younger Pine boys, twelve-year-old Marshall and seven-year-old Beep. Reading it kept me up late, and that doesn’t happen often.
Sally Kilpatrick’s second novel, Bittersweet Creek, recasts Romeo and Juliet in small-town Tennessee. A decade ago, Romy Satterfield and Julian McElroy fell in love despite the long-standing feud between their families. In fact, they were secretly married, but on the night of their high school graduation, when they planned to leave town and start their new life together, Julian stood Romy up.
Crushed but never defeated, Romy went off to college and made her own new life in Nashville. Now she’s come back to Ellery (the setting of Kilpatrick’s terrific debut, The Happy Hour Choir) to help her injured father run the farm and her best friend run the class reunion, but most of all to get a divorce from Julian so she can marry Richard Paris, her wealthy fiance.
No one but Romy and Julian (and the justice of the peace) ever knew about the marriage, and Romy would just as soon keep it that way, but her dealings with Julian seem to get more complicated every time they meet. And somehow her view of Richard seems to change more and more the longer Romy stays on the farm.
Written in first person chapters alternating between Romy and Julian, with sections of Romy’s late mother’s “History of the Satterfield-McElroy Feud” here and there, Bittersweet Creek has humor, suspense, Shakespearean references, and family secrets. Highly recommended.