Amazon link- The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred
To sum it up: Eight-year-old Alix French, is the precocious darling of a respected southern family. But nothing was ordinary about the day she met ten-year-old Nick Anderson, a boy from the wrong side of town. Armed with only a tin of bee balm and steely determination, Alix treats the raw evidence of a recent beating that mars his back, an act that changes both of their lives forever. Through childhood disasters and teenage woes, they cling together as friendship turns to love. The future looks rosy until the fateful night when Frank Anderson, Nick's abusive father, is shot to death in his filthy trailer. Suddenly, Nick is gone— leaving Alix alone, confused and pregnant. For the next fifteen years she wrestles with the pain of Nick's abandonment, a bad marriage, her family and friends. But finally, she's starting to get her life back together. Her divorce is almost final, her business is booming, and she's content if not happy- until the day she looks up and sees Nick standing across the counter. He's back, and he's not alone. Once again Alix is plunged into turmoil and pain as Nick tries to win her love, something she resists with all her strength. Only one thing might break the protective wall she's built around her emotions— the truth about Frank Anderson's death. But when that truth comes out and those walls crumble, neither Alix nor Nick is prepared for the emotional explosion that could destroy, as well as heal...
Wow. This was definitely an emotional read, that's for sure- I won't go into too much depth while writing this review, because quite frankly, this book took an emotional toll on me. I went into this, knowing that it was nothing like I'd typically go for. I've heard so many great things about it, have read so many awesome reviews, and have received so many recommendations- I knew it was time for me to just dive into this one head first, and with an open mind... and boy, am I ever glad that I did!
With this book, you get the chance to watch Alix and Nick grow and mature together- developing from young children and into adulthood. They both deal with not only heart-warming, but heart-breaking moments along the way, which takes you through so much emotion... from love, loss, change, and new beginnings. This wasn't your typical happily-ever-after. The hero and heroine had to work hard, endure quite a bit of pain, and face many trials and tribulations before getting that happy ending that we all crave. This was my first book by Katherine Allred, and it won't be my last. She has a beautiful writing style, and certainly knows how to tell a story that makes a picture come to life right before your eyes. :)