Title: Shaking the Sugar Tree
Author: Nick Wilgus
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 304 pages
Rating: A List
Blurb: Wise-cracking Wiley Cantrell is loud and roaringly outrageous—and he needs to be to keep his deeply religious neighbors and family in the Deep South at bay. A failed writer on food stamps, Wiley works a minimum wage job and barely manages to keep himself and his deaf son, Noah, more than a stone’s throw away from Dumpster-diving.
Noah was a meth baby and has the birth defects to prove it. He sees how lonely his father is and tries to help him find a boyfriend while Wiley struggles to help Noah have a relationship with his incarcerated mother, who believes the best way to feed a child is with a slingshot. No wonder Noah becomes Wiley’s biggest supporter when Boston nurse Jackson Ledbetter walks past Wiley’s cash register and sets his sugar tree on fire.
Jackson falls like a wet mule wearing concrete boots for Wiley’s sense of humor. And while Wiley represents much of the best of the South, Jackson is hiding a secret that could threaten this new family in the making.
When North meets South, the cultural misunderstandings are many, but so are the laughs, and the tears, but, as they say down in Dixie, it’s all good.
Review: When a story grabs you from page one and doesn’t let you go, you know you are headed for a new favorite.
But when you are ready to mark it as DNF by the 10% mark, and then change completely and turn into an absolute favorite, is a surprise.
More power to the author, Nick Wilgus. Who, without knowing, climbed the ladder to my top 10 favorite authors. Just like that!
Why? Well, to be honest it’s the fact that I started the book by disliking the way the MC, Wiley Cantrell, spoke about his son. The “meth baby” term was bugging me and I thought of him as a total tool. But then, I got it.
I understood his sarcasm was his shield. I totally got why he needed to be strong and stubborn. And why he, despite being a softy and an adorably caring father, was also a wall when it came to protecting his child from the abuse of outsiders.
“As a love story between a parent and a child, it was universal.
Didn’t matter that I was gay, that he was deaf, that we didn’t fit in, that we were each outcasts in our own way.
God, fate, the universe, luck—we had been thrown together in this thing we call life for reasons we might never be able to fathom.”
Noah, is the “meth baby”. Product of a failed relationship with a meth head girlfriend, that Wiley never loved. He was going through some hard times himself.
Fighting his overly religious, homophobic family. He tried to prove them wrong and ended up with a baby.
Despite the name calling that bothered me at first, I then understood. Their love and relationship, how they faced their struggles, the financial ones as well as the emotional ones, only makes them stronger. Noah deserves all the love, care and affection he receives from Wiley, he does not deserve the abuse masquerading as concern he receives from Wiley’s family.
Wiley’s sense of humor will have you laughing out loud, really meaning it too. Papaw, the grandfather, has no filter, none at all. He will call Wiley names, without a hint of embarrassment. The best part is that everything is so out of control when Papaw is around that it’s better than standup comedy!
“We don’t hide crazy,” I said.
“We put it on the porch and let it entertain the neighbors.”
But you will also find yourself crying. Because even though he is strong and puts on a façade his interactions with his family hurt him, especially the horrible things his brother tells him. He tries to be strong, for Noah mostly, but it’s not easy.
Emotions will run high with this one. It’s a clever book. It’s a different book.
The main plot is based on the father and son relationship. How to deal with Noah, who is deaf and needs so much love. Feeling abandoned by his mother has left him unsure of himself, with low self-esteem. Everything is a challenge. For this reason Noah is Wiley’s first, and most important, priority.
Something that Jackson, Wiley’s love interest and the other half of the book, must understand and learn to prioritize too.
Jackson comes with a past, which might threaten to break everything he’s built with Wiley when it comes out in the open. But he is an honest man. He cares for Wiley, and most importantly he cares for Noah too.
It might seem impossible, but once life strikes again, the family finally steps up, together. Backing up Wiley. And Noah, too.
Their HEA will get to them, it will be harder and maybe take longer, but they will get there.
I absolutely loved it. It left me drained. I couldn’t pick up a new book for days. I needed to work through all the feelings this book stirred in me.
I am so happy I gave it a chance, that I didn’t put it down. So happy I discovered a new, talented author.
Reviewed by Connie