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On July 5, 1906, Rucker
Blakeslee announces that he intends to marry Miss Love Simpson,
a hat-maker at his store who is years younger than he. This news shocks
his family, since his wife Mattie Lou died only three weeks earlier.
Rucker’s daughters, Mary Willis and Loma, worry about what the gossips
of Cold Sassy, Georgia, will think of their father’s impropriety.
Will Tweedy, Rucker’s fourteen-year-old grandson and the narrator
of the novel, supports his grandfather’s marriage. Will thinks Miss
Love is nice and pretty, even though she comes from Baltimore and
therefore is practically a Yankee. Will thinks that Rucker needs
someone to look after him now that Mattie Lou is gone. On the afternoon
Rucker announces his engagement, Will sneaks off to go fishing in
the country despite the fact that he is supposed to be in mourning
for his grandmother. He walks across a high, narrow train trestle
and nearly dies when a train speeds toward him. He survives by hurling
himself between the tracks so the train passes just overhead without
actually touching him. Will becomes a sensation after his near-death
experience, and the whole town comes to his house to ask him about
the incident. Rucker shocks everyone by arriving with his new bride,
The people of Cold Sassy disapprove of Rucker’s hasty
marriage, and rumors spread quickly. Will, however, spends a great
deal of time at the Blakeslee house and becomes friends with Miss
Love. Will soon learns that the marriage is one of convenience and
that Rucker and Miss Love sleep in separate rooms. Miss Love tells
Will that she married Rucker only because he promised to deed her
the house and furniture. For his part, Rucker married Miss Love
to save on the cost of a housekeeper. One day, Clayton McAllister,
Miss Love’s former fiancé from Texas, shows up and tries to persuade Miss
Love to leave with him. He kisses her, but Miss Love sends him away
contemptuously. Miss Effie Belle Tate, a local gossip, sees the kiss
and promptly spreads the news all over town.
Will and some of his friends make a trip into the country
to pick up a horse for Miss Love, camping in the mountains along
the way. When they return, Will and his father, Hoyt, try to convince
Will’s mother, Mary Willis, to go on a trip to New York. Rucker
has bought the tickets to New York so that Hoyt, who works for Rucker,
can go to purchase new goods for the store. At first Mary Willis
refuses to go because she is in mourning, but Will and Hoyt convince
her that the trip will do her good. Right after Mary Willis changes
her mind, Rucker decides to use the tickets himself to go to New
York with Miss Love. Mary Willis is crushed, and her hatred of Miss
Love increases. To take his and Mary Willis’s mind off the disappointment,
Hoyt buys a brand new Cadillac and becomes the first motorcar owner
in Cold Sassy history.
Rucker and Miss Love return from New York. They are now
flirtatious and affectionate with each other, and Will wonders whether their
marriage is becoming more legitimate. Rucker announces that he too
has bought a car and intends to begin selling cars in Cold Sassy.
Lightfoot McLendon is a classmate of Will’s who lives in the impoverished
section of Cold Sassy known as Mill Town. One day Will takes Lightfoot
on a car ride to the cemetery, where he kisses her. A nosy neighbor
sees the kiss and tells Will’s parents. Outraged at Will’s association
with common people, Will’s parents forbid him to drive the Cadillac
for two months. Will gets around his punishment by driving Rucker’s
car. One Sunday, Will, Rucker, and Miss Love take a day trip into
the country, where Will gives them driving lessons. On the way back
to Cold Sassy, Will crashes the car into a creek bed and damages
the radiator. While they wait for a repair team to arrive, they
stay with a family that lives nearby. That night, Will
overhears Rucker tell Miss Love that he loves her and wants their marriage
to be real. Miss Love declares that she cannot marry and that no
man would want her if he knew her terrible secret. She tells Rucker that
her father raped her when she was a child. Rucker says her past does
not lessen his love for her, but Miss Love sends him away.
Eventually, Miss Love and Rucker fall deeply in love.
Will’s uncle, Camp Williams, commits suicide, which begins a dark
period in Cold Sassy. Rucker hires Will’s worst enemy, Hosie Roach,
to work at the store in Camp’s place. Because of his new income,
Hosie can marry Will’s beloved Lightfoot. A pair of thieves robs
and beats Rucker. Although he recovers from his injuries,
Rucker catches pneumonia. As Rucker lies sick in bed, Will overhears
him tell Miss Love that God provides strength and comfort to the
faithful in times of trouble. Miss Love tells Will that although
Rucker does not know it, she is pregnant with Rucker’s child. Rucker
dies shortly after he falls ill, but his message of faith in God
gives Will strength to cope. Though the town and Will’s family do
not accept Miss Love, she knows that they will all accept her child,
and plans on staying in Cold Sassy.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Cold Sassy Tree!