I'm one of the publishers of All About Romance. I love reading romance, as well as mysteries, fantasy, history and historical fiction, and all kinds of other things. Staying on Goodreads for now but trying this out in case I decide to switch.
This book made me start muttering incredulously under my breath far too many times for me to be able to say that I entirely liked it. I do respect what the author was trying to do here because I haven't encountered too many inspirational novels addressing some of the topics touched upon in this one, but I found the book very uneven.
Set in Alabama in the late 1970s/early 1980s, How Sweet the Sound contains stories told by two narrators, thirteen-year-old Anniston Harlan, and her aunt Comfort. Anniston's narration, which takes up the bulk of book, is something of a coming of age tale while her aunt's is one of pain and, eventually, healing.
The story starts with quite a bang as Anniston's father and uncle kill each other over the uncle's attack on Comfort. From there, we see Anniston adapting to life without her father and through her eyes, we watch the family dealing with the burden of family secrets, including alcoholism, abuse, and incest. It's a walk into territory I haven't seen covered in a lot of Christian novels, and I thought Sorrells was brave for going there, particularly since she doesn't allow her characters much by way of easy answers to their problems.
However, some part of this book just didn't work for me. For starters, the frequent mentions of Jacob's Ladder completely drove me nuts. I think it was meant to act as a symbol woven through the story, but the explanation for it given by one character felt a little heavy-handed and all the prattling on about ladders just didn't work for me.
And then there's Anniston herself. She's basically a likeable narrator, but the fact that her uncle murdered her father and the revelation that said uncle abused her beloved aunt doesn't seem to throw her for much of a loop. Different people react to trauma in different ways, but Anniston seems to go through an awful lot of trauma in this book without reacting very much at all.
By contrast, I found Comfort's journey painful at times but I really liked her as a character. I hurt for her at times, but I liked that we as readers got to have a clear sense of her as a person and that "victim" wasn't the only side of her character. If only we could have gotten something a little more multi-faceted for Comfort's mother, Princella, one of the villains of the piece. Princella is so over the top in her nasty treatment of the family that it's hard to understand why so many people love and respect her. At one point, her husband describes her as "broken," but the author does very little to help readers understand why Princella is the way she is or what her supposed good side could possibly look like. By the time we see anything remotely sympathetic about Princella, it's really too little, too late. For that reason, she presents more as a caricature than a character.
This is definitely an ambitious book, and I'm glad my book club picked it out because I don't think I would have found it on my own. However, the writing needs quite a bit more polishing in order to present the story as powerfully as it deserves.