Item description for The Spirit of Sweetgrass by Nicole Seitz...
Overview "Soul soothing tale about strong family ties and the glorious magic of heaven"--Provided by publisher.
Publishers Description Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins is a 78-year-old sweetgrass basket weaver who sits on the side of Hwy. 17 in the company of her dead husband, Daddy Jim. Inspired by her Auntie Leona, Essie Mae finally discovers her calling in life and weaves powerful "love baskets," praying fervently over them to affect the lives of those who visit her roadside stand. When she's faced with losing her home and her stand and being put in a nursing home, Daddy Jim talks her into coming on up to Heaven to meet sweet Jesus-something she's always wanted to do. Once there, she reunites with Gullahs and African ancestors; but soon, her heavenly peace is disrupted, for she still has work to do. Now Essie Mae, who once felt powerless and invisible, must find the strength within her to keep her South Carolina family from falling apart.
From Publishers Weekly In an enjoyable debut novel, Seitz offers an interesting first-person narrative about the life (and seemingly, the afterlife) of an elderly Gullah-Creole basket weaver. By the side of Highway 17 in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina sits 78-year-old Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins, crafting baskets of sweetgrass and talking to her dead husband Daddy Jim. Relations are strained with her daughter Henrietta, who thinks Essie belongs in a retirement center. If Essie can't pay $10,000 in back taxes to save her home, she may have no choice. More tensions: her grandson EJ wants to marry a white girl, Essie discovers that a handsome man she's trying to find a girl for is gay, and her daughter carries a hidden secret. When Essie hopes she'll die and go to heaven, the book shifts less successfully to the afterlife, where her Gullah-Creole ancestors surround her and she's reunited with Daddy Jim. Together, they team up to return to Earth and battle two spirits conjured up by Henrietta's voodoo that threatens to ruin an attempt to save the sweetgrass basket weaving culture. Although uneven after a strong start, the first-person narrative in heavy dialect is engaging and readers will enjoy the bits of Gullah culture and history salted throughout. Copyright 2007 Publishers Weekly
Citations And Professional Reviews The Spirit of Sweetgrass by Nicole Seitz has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
CBA Retailers - 03/01/2007 page 41
Romantic Times - 02/01/2007 page 69
Publishers Weekly - 10/22/2007
Library Journal - 01/08/2007
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Studio: Integrity/Thomas Nelson
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.5" Width: 6.21" Height: 0.82" Weight: 0.7 lbs.
Release Date Feb 1, 2007
Publisher Thomas Nelson
ISBN 1591455065 ISBN13 9781591455066
Availability 0 units.
More About Nicole Seitz
Nicole Seitz is a South Carolina Lowcountry native and a freelance writer/illustrator published in South Carolina Magazine, Charleston Magazine, House Calls, The Island Packet, and the Bluffton Packet. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Journalism, she also has a bachelors degree in illustration from Savannah College of Art & Design. Nicole is an exhibiting artist in the Charleston, South Carolina area where she owns a web design firm and live with her husband and two small children.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Spirit of Sweetgrass?
More like 3.75 stars... Sep 10, 2007
Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins is a 78-year-old sweetgrass basket weaver who sits on the side of Hwy. 17 in the company of her dead husband, Daddy Jim. Inspired by her Auntie Leona, Essie Mae finally discovers her calling in life and weaves powerful "love baskets," praying fervently over them to affect the lives of those who visit her roadside stand. When she's faced with losing her home and her stand and being put in a nursing home, Daddy Jim talks her into coming on up to Heaven to meet sweet Jesus-something she's always wanted to do. Once there, she reunites with Gullahs and African ancestors; but soon, her heavenly peace is disrupted, for she still has work to do. Now Essie Mae, who once felt powerless and invisible, must find the strength within her to keep her South Carolina family from falling apart.
Well here is another book that makes me go hmmmm... because it's supposed to be a Christian book yet there is so much contained in this story that is simply not Biblical. However, the fictionalized character of Essie Mae is a delight to read. I think it's important to note that what the above description from the publisher doesn't mention is that the love baskets that Essie Mae "powerfully prays over" also has voodoo rituals attached, only she calls it hoodoo. Essie would weave the hair of people into the basket in hopes of matchmaking. And in this story the hoodoo techniques always worked.
While I found some of her thoughts hilarious and her culture entertaining, this story contained quite a few weird theological moments...like when Essie thought they needed to help Jesus out when they were in heaven, and some of the things they did in heaven were "way out there". But this is a fictional story. So if you don't take it seriously and read it for mere entertainment you will enjoy the book. I'd love to believe that I will look young, beautiful, and get to make love to my husband in heaven, too, but that simply isn't so. And I found it odd that her voodoo practicing aunt was in heaven along with some other folks that practiced similar things. Like somehow that was irrelevant to their faith in Jesus? Hmmmm...I dunno.
The writing and characterization of the story was excellent, however, and I commend the author for her creativity and ability to engage the reader, but I don't think it should've been marketed as Christian fiction by a Christian publisher. But I'm only one opinion. If you can get past the warped theology and you are seeking a book that is compulsively readable, you'll like this story.
The Spirit of Sweetgrass Sep 4, 2007
A delightful read. You realize a changing world around you as the author makes you think of times gone by. She makes you aware of what a gift memories are. The character, Essie Mae, who is of Gullah culture is a colorful person to say the least. Putting the reader inside the head of Essie Mae is done in such a creative way. How author weaves Essie Mae's basket weaving into remembering family, friends and ancestors is very clever. I really enjoyed this book. Carol
I loved Essie Mae Aug 10, 2007
I just fell in love with Essie Mae. She was very real. At first I was put off when I read there was "dialect", which usually distracts from my reading enjoyment, but Seitz's written Gullah is beautifully done and sprinkled throughout in small, jewel-like doses. Can't wait for the next book!
A wonderful and spiritual read Jul 12, 2007
The Spirit of Sweetgrass by Nicole Seitz was so enjoyable that I found it difficult to stop reading. I have reommended this book to all my friends who share my love of the Charleston area and its rich history. I absolutely hated for this story to end and cannot wait until the new novel is released.
Thank you Nicole for such a heart-warming and witty book.
Educational introduction to the Gullah-Creole way of life Jun 6, 2007
In her engaging debut novel, THE SPIRIT OF SWEETGRASS, Nicole Seitz introduces readers to the rich and diverse world of South Carolina's Lowcountry Gullah culture, interspersing themes of faith, forgiveness and the importance of family throughout.
Using first-person narrative, Seitz introduces readers to 78-year-old Essie Mae Jenkins, a widow who sells her hand-woven sweetgrass baskets at a highway roadstand. Essie misses "Daddy Jim," her husband who died in three short months from lung cancer: "When Daddy Jim died, my whole life just flip-flopped like a catfish dying on the dock. Right about then's when I took up basket making again." But with her husband gone and income sporadic at best, Essie is in trouble. She owes $10,000 in taxes on her home, and selling baskets won't even begin to cover it.
The known world and the supernatural mingle throughout the novel. In the first half, this mostly consists of Essie talking to Daddy Jim as if he is alive. "Jim, what I'm gonna do? Things is fallin' in all over me." Essie's daughter, the unlikable Henrietta, believes that the answer is for Essie to move into a retirement center. But Essie clings to her home, and to a way of life in the Gullah culture that seems on the verge of vanishing.
She has other disappointments as well. Essie's beloved grandson, EJ, seems intent on marrying a white girl. And Essie's matchmaking talents are seemingly wasted on the good-looking Jeffrey, who doesn't appear interested in women. Most challenging is her relationship with the bitter Henrietta, whose angry spirit widens the deep divide between her and her mother.
Not all writers can handle regional dialect well, but Seitz does an exceptional job here. Although the dialect is heavy, it reads smoothly and enhances rather than detracts from the narrative.
Those readers who enjoy a supernatural, suspend-disbelief component to their fiction will enjoy the second half of the novel, in which Essie dreams that she has died and gone to heaven. There, she meets her ancestors and reunites with those loved ones who have passed on. Seitz paints this heavenly reunion with delightful imagination: "In the Lowcountry, when we would have family reunions, we'd pull everybody together and have a big ol' oyster roast with lots of drawn butter and fried shrimp caught fresh that day. Folks I ain't never seen before from all over would come out the woodwork.... Well, now take that and multiply it by a hundred. That's how crazy it is here in heaven."
Heaven, she finds, is "like everythin' I ever `magined and then some." Essie's "mama" makes her okra soup and cornbread, and Essie and her husband, Daddy Jim, even engage in a little lovemaking. (Is there sex in heaven? Seitz says yes!) And in the afterlife, Daddy Jim says "...ain't no such thing as black and white folks. If somebody's done made it up to heaven, they get to glowin' like a rainbow full of all sorts of colors."
Heaven holds more surprises, as when (in a subtle and poignant pro-life theme) Essie discovers she has a granddaughter who Henrietta aborted and no one else knew about. Although this second half of the novel is less absorbing than the first, it will still hold readers' interest. The weakest portion of the novel may be when Essie and her ancestors return to earth to crash the Sweetgrass Soiree and try to save the basket-weaving culture from the evil spirits conjured up by Henrietta's "hoodoo" or voodoo that threatens to destroy it.
Despite this, Seitz's imaginative story is an absorbing and even educational introduction to the Gullah-Creole way of life. Readers will hope to hear more from this promising novelist.