15 July  2022

Book Review:

Title: The Cicada Tree

Publication Date: February 2022

Am I amazed that this book is published by the same publisher who is releasing my upcoming second novel? You bet your sweet bippy I am!

I bow to this author and what he has accomplished with this novel. This is a close cousin to To Kill a Mockingbird. 

Let’s start with the gorgeous cover…combined with the title, it reeled me right in. I savored it. I dragged it out. And I didn’t want it to end. What is it about this book?

It’s the language: the author’s use of language is so mesmerizing and even astonishing. It makes the reader just fall right into the story and not want to leave.

It’s the characterization. One example: the author has created exactly what it feels like to be in a little girl’s head as she faces down mean girls.

It’s the intricate play of different themes and plotlines. The book ends up being a mash up of mystery, fantasy, and historical fiction with a Southern gothic underlay. The final showdown scene has all the elements rolled together with a supernatural twist. It’s a stunner.

It’s also the depiction of the 1950s era, captured magically with rich, pinpoint details such as “I looked back to Mama, her coiffure hardly bothered, a benefit of her Amani Wave hair setting lotion.” Added to that are glorious descriptions of the era’s fashions.

Having the strangeness of cicadas as the overarching element to the story is both fascinating and malevolent at the same time. (Having just lived through another summer of cicadas in 2021, the tale vividly brings it all back to me.) Gwaltney has aptly captured the otherworldliness of the experience and weaves it into the plot and subplots of the novel.

This novel has already been likened to To Kill a Mockingbird by others and I concur with that likeness but I am also reminded of the wonderful heroine in The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. I will be mulling this read over for quite some time. It is hands down the best thing I have read this year.

By the end of the novel, it is finally understood exactly what “that Mayfield shine” is all about. What a ride. Bravo, Robert Gwaltney!