Rating: 4 stars
Rodney Earwood and Palmer Cray had been best friends for as long as either could remember. They were brothers in all but the genetic sense, each born late in the lives of good women who had given up on the dream of motherhood by the time their respective miracles occurred.
They wandered the hills of North Georgia, hunted the pine woods, fished the cool, green streams, and camped under the stars. They shared each other’s clothing, each other’s families, and each other’s homes. They grew into tall young men, and on a hot May afternoon right after they turned eighteen, they both graduated from Sweetwater High School, numbers seven and eight in the crooked, sweaty line that held a class of thirty of Sweetwater’s finest. Shortly thereafter, Rodney and Palmer flew a Camaro into a tree, Palmer flew into a haystack, Rodney flew into the great beyond, and nothing in Sweetwater was ever the same again.
I really enjoyed this book. The story was interesting, wanting me to continue reading to find out what happened next to Palmer Cray. It was written at just the right pace to where I could continue reading the book from where I stopped.
I really liked the characters because they kept the story going. I really liked reading about Palmer’s relationship with his cousin Cheddar as he continued to live out his life in jail. Especially because Palmer didn’t expect to room with him and it really surprised me as a reader.
I also enjoyed reading Sweetwater Blues because there was a lot of character development for Palmer and Cheddar. Before the accident, Palmer was a carefree high school student who did what he wanted with his best friend Rodney. However, after what happened and spending time in jail, Palmer grew as a person. Even though he was guilty of the crime he committed, Palmer didn’t let the system get to him and became a better person as he continued his sentence. Cheddar also underwent character development throughout Sweetwater Blues. The reader can see this through his relationship with Palmer and through the way he acts as the story continues. The reader can see that Cheddar is a changed man and that he wants to do better for himself once he’s released. I love seeing these developments in Sweetwater Blues because the reader is able to better understand these characters and their predicament.
The only aspect of Sweetwater Blues that bothered me was the portrayal of jail life Atkins gives to the reader. I felt at times as if it wasn’t realistic and wished he included more detail about jail and how inmates have to cope so they can get out. I know part of that is because Palmer had good connections so he was very fortunate, but I wanted to see more of jail life for Palmer and see how he copes with being messed around by other inmates. While the reader does see some of that in Sweetwater Blues, I don’t think Atkins included enough to where I could get a good sense of what jail is really like for those placed in it.
Overall though, Sweetwater Blues was a wonderful read for me. I enjoyed every moment I spent reading this book and recommend it to anyone interested.