Friday, January 1, 2010

Cottonwood Whispers by Jennifer Erin Valent

book cover

Cottonwood Whispers
by Jennifer Erin Valent

Trade Paperback: 340 pages
Publisher: Tyndale
First Released: 2009

Author Website

Source: ARC from publisher

Back Cover Description:
"I've heard the dead whisper."

So begins this sequel to Jennifer’s award-winning debut novel, Fireflies in December. It's 1936, and though Jessilyn Lassiter and her best friend Gemma Teague have survived prejudice and heartache in their lifelong friendship, this summer threatens to tear them apart yet again. Gemma’s job with the wealthy Hadley family leads to a crush on their youngest son. But Jessilyn’s insistence that he’s no good and that no rich white man would ever truly fall for a poor black girl like Gemma puts them at odds.

Tragedy strikes when Jessilyn’s cherished neighbor girl is hit by a car and killed. Things get worse when an elderly friend is falsely accused of the crime, and the only way to clear his name is to put her family’s livelihood in jeopardy. For Jessilyn, this is a choice too hard to bear and she wonders where to turn for answers, especially when an angry mob threatens vigilante justice.

Cottonwood Whispers is a historical fiction with some romance set in 1936 in a small town in the South. The author does an excellent job of conveying the idea of Southern accents without being obvious or making the text hard to read.

This novel is the second in a series, but you don't need to read the first one to understand this one. However, a mystery element in the first novel is revealed in this one, so I'd recommend reading Fireflies in December first--I suspect it's as good as this one.

The novel had excellent pacing and world-building. I was completely pulled into the story. The characters were complex and everyone had their flaws as well as their good points. I cared about the characters, even the not-so-nice characters and the main characters when they weren't acting very nice.

A lot of sad things happen in this novel. It's mostly about dealing with the really hard things in life, like a neighbor's child dying in an accident, injustice, feeling helpless to make things right, and dealing with prejudice against those who are different.

This definitely was a Christian novel, as the issue of why God let things happen differently than Jessilyn thought He should handle them was talked about throughout the book. Jessilyn wasn't a Christian (and didn't become one in this book), but many of those around her were, and she questioned them with her "why?"'s.

There was no bad language or sex. Overall, I'd highly recommend this well-written, clean novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
I’ve heard the dead whisper.

Every time I tell my best friend Gemma that, she frowns at me, says, “There ain’t no such thing as ghosts,” and then tells me I’m crazy. But I’m not crazy. The dead really can whisper, only it isn’t their ghosts that do it. It’s the memory of them.

There’s a place around the bend from my momma and daddy’s house where a stone cross rests beneath a cottonwood tree. That cross is where I first heard the whisper. It’s not really a grave so much, but a marker to remind people of what we lost that day. I was only seventeen when we placed that marker there, but it still looks pristine, like it was made just yesterday. Only yesterday was a long time ago, and time has brought a whole lot of changes since—some good and some bad.

And that’s just what I was looking for in that summer of 1936 . . . changes.

The last day of the school year saw me and Gemma meeting up at the pharmacy for a soda to celebrate another year of my surviving school. When I got there, she was standing outside the building, swinging her purse by one hand.

“Where you been?” Gemma asked when she caught sight of me. “I’ve been waitin’ ten minutes.”

“Teacher took a long time givin’ her end-of-year speech. She sure does like to talk.”

“Sounds a lot like you.”

I wrinkled my nose and gave her a shove, but she was the only person who could talk sharp to me and not get an earful back. We were like sisters, Gemma and me, and the way I figured it, sisters should be able to say near about anything to each other.

We sat down at the pharmacy counter with confidence because Mr. Poppleberry, who ran the place, didn’t have a thing against colored people, and he welcomed Gemma in all the time.

“I’m gettin’ a job this year,” I said determinedly once we were settled with our chocolate sodas. “I’m tired of not havin’ money to do things with.”

Read more from chapter one.


Tanya Dennis said...

Thanks for the review.

You should include sales links to Amazon or You could earn commissions and make it easier for your readers to follow up on your recommendations.

Email if you need help setting it up. I do it for all my blogs including Christian Children's Book Review and In the Dailies.

Genre Reviewer said...


Thank you for the offer. I used to include Amazon Associate links on all my book reviews, but no one seemed to use them. They received very few click-throughs and no sales.

Since bloggers apparently now have to disclose in every post if a link generates money for them, I've decided not to bother with Associate programs.

However, if a lot of people want me to include links to Amazon, I'll do it--but it won't be an Associate link. They take time and aren't giving me any return.

Jennifer Valent said...

Thanks so much for this, Debbie! I love what you're doing with this blog and am honored to be a part of it!

~Cindy~ said...

I loved this book, I reviewed it earlier this year and it made my top ten book list of the year!!


Genre Reviewer said...

Jennifer Valent,

Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you liked my blog. :) I look forward to reading more of your novels.


I agree, it's a great book. I don't make "top ten" lists, but if I did, I'm pretty sure this novel would be on it.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the review! This book is definitely on my hope-to-read list.

If you are interested, I have reviewed the first one here: Fireflies in December.

You are right - it's excellent!

Genre Reviewer said...


Thanks for dropping by. I'm glad you found my review useful. I'll certainly check out your review.