Southern Scribe
    our culture of storytelling


 Short Story Collection Review   

Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes
By Deborah Smith, Virginia Ellis, Nancy Knight, Sandra Chastain,
Debra Dixon, and Donna Ball
BelleBooks, May 2000
ISBN: 0-9673035-0-8



Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes is the debut book from BelleBooks, a small publishing house that caters to Southern fare. The anthology is a collection of family stories that depict the love of family, tradition, and humor which can appear eccentric in other regions, but south of the Mason-Dixon, it's just family.

The six owners of BelleBooks who created this collection of childhood memories and family scenes are talented storytellers.  They have weaved knee-slapping humor, two-hanky emotion, and pro-wrestling action into a rich tapestry that defines what it is to be born Southern.   

Childhood memories in "The Jesus Shoes" and "Keeper of the Stick" are moving in the way they portray the courage and moral strength found in the young. Other tales from childhood recall the animals.  Everything from the main attraction at a gas station to the dog from hell, will have the reader holding his sides from laughing.

Southerners have no shame when it comes to sharing family stories.  In fact storytelling rich in eccentric behavior and a love of traditions is celebrated as the highest form of family honor.

The family stories are rich in the love-hate relationship that occurs.  But in the South, roots are deep in memory and cultivated to last generations to come. "From Whence We Come" celebrates Southerners love of family history and the joy to be found in forgotten relatives. "Big Daddy's Outhouse" and "Grandpapa's Garden" give two extreme views of marriage.  One is manipulation and the other is love after death. Then there are the stories of death.  Where the ashes of a least favorite aunt may get the last act of revenge, or a fight between current and ex-wife may cause the deceased husband to rise from the dead.

Finally, there are the family stories that show the protective love of kin, where the elite of a steeplechase or a rude prospective mother-in-law may hold airs meant to be brought down.

Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes joins the works of Fannie Flagg, Lewis Grizzard, and Florence King in capturing the Southern experience.  Pull up a rocker and pour another sweet tea.


Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

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