- Title: South of the Buttonwood Tree
- Author: Heather Webber
- Genre: Southern Fiction, Magical Realism
- Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
- Would I recommend: Yes! If you enjoy Sarah Addison Allen, you will love Heather Webber.
Blue Bishop has a knack for finding lost things. While growing up in charming small-town Buttonwood, Alabama, she’s happened across lost wallets, jewelry, pets, her wandering neighbor, and sometimes, trouble. No one is more surprised than Blue, however, when she comes across an abandoned newborn baby in the woods, just south of a very special buttonwood tree.
Sarah Grace Landreneau Fulton is at a crossroads. She has always tried so hard to do the right thing, but her own mother would disown her if she ever learned half of Sarah Grace’s secrets.
The unexpected discovery of the newborn baby girl will alter Blue’s and Sarah Grace’s lives forever. Both women must fight for what they truly want in life and for who they love. In doing so, they uncover long-held secrets that reveal exactly who they really are–and what they’re willing to sacrifice in the name of family.
Heather Webber’s Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe was a highlight of my reading last year. So of course I was thrilled to have the chance to read an advance copy of her latest, South of the Buttonwood Tree. The bar was set high, though. Could it live up to Blackbird Cafe? Oh, yes. It could, and did.
South of the Buttonwood Tree is set in the small town of Buttonwood, Alabama. Legend has it that folks can ask the buttonwood tree for guidance once a year, and failure to follow the tree’s advice (which comes on a button) is said to subject one to a curse.
Blue Bishop longs to escape the place where she grew up, to get out from under the tainted shadow of her family’s history. Sarah Grace Landreneau Fulton is stuck in a failing marriage, burdened by her mother’s constant exhortation to “do better, be better” and trying to keep up appearances for the sake of her father’s political career. They both find themselves in the midst of the mystery when Blue finds a baby under the buttonwood tree with a button that says, “Give the baby to Blue Bishop.”
This book is, at the risk of sounding horribly cliched, magical. Heather Webber doesn’t just tell a story with her words. She creates an atmosphere, a world that the reader feels drawn to move into. The characters feel like friends, like people I could live next door to or down the street from. I want to visit The Rabbit Hole and see the blanket fort that Henry puts in. I want to see Blue’s studio and read the books she writes.
But the story. This is a tale of the grudges a small town can hold against people they assume they know, whether the grudges are warranted or not. A tale of secrets kept that should have been shared, of things that are most definitely not what they seem, of the ridiculous standards we hold ourselves to just to look good in front of others. There is mystery, suspense, deep love of family, even a little romance. This book brought me to tears more than once. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to hug characters and smack them. It felt like I said farewell to friends when I turned the last page.
Heather Webber has joined the short list of authors whose new books I’ll pick up without even reading the blurb. If you enjoy stories set in small Southern towns, where there’s magic in the air, and where the characters may be people you know, you need to read this book. You won’t be disappointed, and Ms. Webber may find her way onto your short list, too.
Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy of this book. All opinions here are my own, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t like.