Review: Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears by Ken Wheaton

9781624672477-Perfect“A freak accident forces a New Yorker to return to Louisiana and confront her Cajun past
There is nothing more dangerous than a spooked rhinoceros. It is just before lunchtime when Huey, the prized black rhino of Broussard, Louisiana, erupts from his enclosure, trampling a zoo employee on his way to a rampage in the small bayou town. The incident makes the rounds online as News of the Weird, and Katherine Fontenot is laughing along with the rest of her New York office when she notices the name of the hurt zookeeper: Karen-Anne Castille—her sister.
Fifty years old, lonely, and in danger of being laid off, Katherine has spent decades trying to ignore her Louisiana roots. Forced home by Karen-Anne’s accident, she remembers everything about the bayou that she wanted to escape: the heat, the mosquitoes, and the constant, crushing embrace of family. But when she spies her old high school sweetheart lingering by the local graveyard, she finds herself tempted to stick around.” – Publisher Summary

There were a few reasons I wanted to read Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears by Ken Wheaton. One, I like quirky titles and this was a quirky title. Two, it’s set in Louisiana and I lived in Louisiana for a few years when I was young, and enjoy revisiting the culture from time to time. Three, Matthew Quick – wonderful, fabulous Matthew Quick – claimed this was a hilarious read. Frankly, Quick’s endorsement is what sealed the deal. Thus, I grabbed up the novel and immediately got my read on.

Katherine left Louisiana at the age of twenty after a family tragedy, running away to New York City – where she remained for the next thirty years, returning home to visit only a handful of times. After distancing herself from her Cajun roots as much as possible, she is forced to return upon the death of her sister, Karen-Anne, and quickly becomes embroiled in the outrageous family dynamics she’d escaped so long ago – as well as finds herself forced to confront memories she’d worked for so many years to avoid.

My favorite part of the book was the author’s use of the word y’all. Below is the author’s note he wrote prior to the beginning of the story:

“A word about ‘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.”

While this was a somewhat charming tale in parts, I found none of the hilarity promised by Mr. Quick (for shame, for shame, Mr. Quick!). What I did find was a mostly straightforward journal of Katherine’s life in New York City, her discovery of her sister’s death, her trip home to Louisiana, and Karen-Anne’s wake and funeral. I had expected much more of the book to be set in Louisiana, but in truth only a small portion actually took place there. There were several flashback memory scenes, which I suppose count as taking place in Louisiana, so maybe that ups the Cajun count a tad bit.

In all, Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears is a nice, sometimes sweet, but ultimately mediocre tale of love, loss, forgiveness, and finding our way back to the family we’ve left behind. I did appreciate the Cajun presence and references throughout the novel. If you are a former Cajunite, you might want to check this out as well.

Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears by Ken Wheaton is available at booksellers July 1st. Buy it, read it, love it.

3 stars

Source: Open Road Media {via NetGalley}

 

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3 thoughts on “Review: Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears by Ken Wheaton

  1. kenwheaton says:

    Hi there! Thanks for the review. But I’d like to point out that Matthew Quick’s words were in reference to my first novel, The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival. (That’s the way it reads on Amazon and B&N, at any rate. And the way it should read in any other press materials). And that one IS funnier (if more profane).

  2. kenwheaton says:

    No worries. I just like to stay on the right side of Q! 🙂 Wouldn’t want to put words in his mouth.

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