Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sweet As Cane, Salty As Tears by Ken Wheaton

At fifty-years-old, Katherine is doing pretty well for herself in New York.  She has a successful job working for an advertising magazine, she has a sizable nest egg in the bank, and she spends her vacation time in far flung parts of the world seeing more than she ever imagined she could.  While not perfect, this is the life she has lived for the last thirty years since she sought refuge on a Greyhound bus headed as far from her country Cajun childhood as she could get.  When a family tragedy calls her back home, she has to face her past in a way she has studiously and pharmaceutically avoided for decades.

I had a good feeling about Sweet As Cane, Salty As Tears by Ken Wheaton when I read the Author's Note at the beginning of the book:  

A note about the word "yall."  While most consider y'all a contraction of you all, I consider it one word and treat it thusly.  Please indulge one person's crazy mission to change the language.

Having been born and raised in Texas, it mystifies me that the rest of the country doesn't take advantage of this wonderful word.  It is so concise.  It makes so much more sense that attempting to make the word "you" stand in for both the singular and the plural.  "You" is the singular, "Y'all" is the plural, and, if you really want to push it, "All y'all" is the multiple plural.  I have never, however, used "y'all" in the singular.  Some people do, but not me.  But back to Ken Wheaton and his use of this and other words and phrases that might need a little explanation.  On his blog, he provides a list that he refers to as "Talkin' Funny: Louisiana Style.  You can read those here and here.

As Katherine is pulled back into seeing her family- pulled because she dreads going- she must face her past mistakes and the tragedy that propelled her from home.  Raised with three sisters and two brothers, it is a large family to whom she is returning.  There are her siblings, their spouses and ex-spouses, as well as their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.  In a time and place where teen pregnancy was common, there are fewer years between the generations.  One complaint I had about the first half of this book was the difficulty I had keeping the sisters straight.  They are named Karla- Jean, Kendra-Sue, Katie-Lee (Katherine), and Karen-Anne.  This added to the overall feeling of the book, but it did take me a little while to remember who each one was.  Part of this confusion, especially when it comes to meeting all of the extended family, may have been intentional as Katherine herself has trouble remembering to whom each niece and nephew belong.

I enjoyed reading this book and it kept me turning the pages, but it was not a happy book to read.  There is a lot of sadness and dissatisfaction with life, but there is also the bond of family and it ends with hope.  And reading it left me with a craving for Popeye's chicken.

1 comment:

Ken Wheaton said...

Thanks for reading! Hope you found some Popeyes.