Book Review and Author Interview: The Sweetest Thing by Elizabeth Musser

29 Aug
Anne “Perri” Singleton’s world is defined by the security of family, the camaraderie of friends at an exclusive Atlanta girls’ school, and an enviable social life. She isn’t looking for new friends when Mary Dobbs Dillard arrives from Chicago. Besides, “Dobbs,” the passionate and fiercely individualistic daughter of an itinerant minister, is her opposite in every way.

But just as the Great Depression collides disastrously with Perri’s well-ordered life, friendship blossoms—a friendship that will be tested by jealousy, betrayal, and family secrets..
Elizabeth Musser, an Atlanta native, lives in southern France with her husband and their two sons. Her acclaimed novel, The Swan House, was a Book Sense bestseller list in the Southeast and was selected as one of the top Christian books for 2001 by Amazon’s editors.Searching for Eternity is her sixth novel.                    
My Impressions:        
The Sweetest Thing is another beautifully written novel from the pen of Elizabeth Musser.  Musser manages to capture depression era Atlanta and bring it into focus for the reader.  And once again her characters are authentic, revealing truth and a depth of feeling not often found in books.  I have read three of Musser’s other books — The Swan House, The Dwelling Place and Searching for Eternity.  All are excellent, but I believe The Sweetest Thing is my favorite so far.                                                                                                                                                                                             
Perri Singleton is the pampered, but not quite spoiled seventeen year old used to all the finest in her world.  Her world is filled with parties, teas and pop-calling. The Depression has been going on for 3 years, yet it hasn’t touched her life in any significant day.  Until the banks close and the unthinkable happens.  Enter Mary Dobbs Dillard, ever enthusiastic daughter of a preacher, who has grown up knowing what hardship, hunger and poverty looks like first hand.  Theirs is an unusual friendship, yet one that deepens through their struggles with life and faith.  Told from both of their perspectives, The Sweetest Thing presents a wonderful story of lost and found faith and the discovery of just what is the sweetest thing in life.
As with her other novels set in Atlanta, Musser bring its Depression-era identity to life.  Some landmarks that existed in 1933 still stand today — the Fox Theatre, the Georgian Terrace — and some have been changed or repurposed since those earlier days — the Alms Houses, Five Points — but all come to life in a way that the reader can truly experience the city in its former state.  I could see West Paces Ferry (a very busy street now)  stretching out into fields and woods.
Should you read The Sweetest Thing if you are a Georgia or Atlanta native? Oh yes!  Should you  read it if you are not?  Oh, my, yes!  This is a novel for everyone — a story filled with wit, poignancy and truth — The Sweetest Thing is Highly Recommended.
During the ICRS held in Atlanta in July, I had the opportunity to speak with Elizabeth Musser about her life and books.  Here are the highlights:    
BTB:  What was the inspiration for The Sweetest Thing?  
Elizabeth:  I got the idea from my Grandmother’s life.  She was a girl during the Depression and attended Washington Seminary, a private girls school  in Atlanta.  We found her diaries from that time, and I knew I had to tell this story. Like Perri Singleton, my grandmother was truly “a girl of a thousand dates”.   And Atlanta is home for me. It is where I grew up, where my family lives and it is our base when we are on sabbatical.
BTB:  Along with your husband you are a missionary in France.  Tell us what you do there.
Elizabeth:  My husband, Paul, and I have been church planters.  We have been based in the Lyon area for 13 years, working with local church leaders.  This summer we embark on a new mission.  Paul will be a pastor for the missionaries throughout Europe.  This new job involves a lot of travel –our territory stretches from Ireland to Russia.  We are waiting to see what God has for us.
BTB:  Your novels set in Atlanta describe real landmarks.  In Searching for Eternity, Emile goes to live with his grandmother.  My book club thinks we found that house on our field trip to Atlanta, does it really exist.  (Note: Elizabeth’s books are great for discussion and field trip to the places she writes about).
Elizabeth:  The house that Emile lives in is the house I lived in from ages 6 – 9. It had been my grandparents house and when my family moved out they moved back in.  Readers can also find the houses described in The Sweetest Thing.
BTB:  Do you have a new project you are working on?
Elizabeth:  I am currently working to bring my first 3 books to the American market.  Two of them were published in English, but the third was not.  It is a trilogy set in Algeria and France during the war between the two countries. The books are titled Two Crosses, Two Testaments and Two Destinies and will be available in 2012.
A Big Thank You to Elizabeth for sharing with me.  If you have not read any of her books, you need to go right out and get them.  They are that good.
(I received a copy of The Sweetest Thing from Bethany House and Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program in return for an honest review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.)


2 Responses to “Book Review and Author Interview: The Sweetest Thing by Elizabeth Musser”

  1. It's Time To Read Mamaw August 29, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    I can’t wait to read this book. Thanks! I won a copy and just got it in the mail this last week.

    • rbclibrary August 30, 2011 at 6:19 am #

      It is soooo good. Love Elizabeth Musser.

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