How Sweet the Sound is my first of two stand-alone novels published by David C. Cook Publishers. A Southern novel of second chances, How Sweet the Sound is a coming-of-age story filled with dark secrets, family dysfunction, and the hunger for redemption.
Here’s a synopsis:
Wealth and etiquette can hide a lot of things in the South, as the esteemed Harlan family of sleepy Bay Spring, Alabama, knows. But behind the gentle facade of white pillared porches and acres of cultivated pecan orchards, family secrets smolder.
Young Anniston Harlan cares little for high society and the rigid rules and expectations of her grandmother, Princella. She finds solace working the orchards alongside her father and grandfather, and relief in the cool waters of Mobile Bay.
Anniston’s aunt, Comfort Harlan, has never quite lived up to the family name, or so her mother Princella’s ever-apparent scowl implies. When she gleefully accepts the proposal of her longtime boyfriend, Solly, a flood tide of tragedy ensues that strips Comfort of her innocence and unleashes generations of family secrets, changing the Harlan family forever.
While Comfort struggles to recover, Anniston discovers an unlikely new friend from the seedy part of town who helps her try to make sense of the chaos. Together, they and the whole town of Bay Spring discover how true love is a risk, but one worth taking.
During the summer of 1980, a coastal Alabama family plagued by three generations of sin finds redemption in this tender Southern coming-of-age tale.
What People Are Saying…
From USA TODAY, reviewer Serena Chase:
“Why you should read it: Set in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a time when the topic of sexual abuse was not a thing “talked about” in the media and for which victims were still too often treated as “deserving” of the crimes committed against them, this novel refuses to nicey-nice over tough and ugly realities. This story is, throughout, raw — but yet penned with a sweetness of prose that makes you want to keep reading, even when you know it would be easier to curl into a ball and weep for the brokenness of the characters therein.Poignant switches of point-of-view between Anniston and her aunt, Comfort, show the reach of abuse within generations of the same family and stretch a reader’s heart to its limits. Simply put, it hurts to read this novel. It hurts to watch the characters go through what they do. It hurts to see family secrets exposed, revealing pain upon pain. It hurts to see them abandon true love and it hurts when they are seemingly abandoned by it — but how beautiful the pain when an ending so lovely and right redefines and redeems several futures at once.
This book will turn your emotions inside out and grip your heart with a clawed fist before pouring acid — and then balm — over the wounds. You have been warned. Now, by all means, go buy this unusually edgy and entirely moving inspirational novel and read it for yourself.”
From Publisher’s Weekly (1/10/2014):
“Debut inspirational novelist Sorrells opens her story powerfully, with a rape and double murder within the Harlan family, who grow pecans in Bay Spring, Ala. This strong stuff is Southern gothic, but it’s also biblical, a retelling of the story of Tamar, who is raped by her brother, a son of King David. The story of this event and its tangled consequences is narrated alternately by Anniston, who is 13 and has seen her father murdered, and her aunt Comfort, the rape victim. The family’s secrets emerge, even as healing, propelled by faith, begins. Sorrells’s ambitious work has beautiful elements, chief among them the strong voice of Anniston . . . Sorrells will likely move many readers of faith, and she’s worth watching.”
“You could read How Sweet the Sound because you love a well-told story, but Amy Sorrells delivers so much more. Here the depths of pain mankind can inflict meets the unfailing grace that waits to heal all who’ll come.”
Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Belle of All Things Southern, author of Heart Wide Open.
“With poetic prose, lyrical descriptions, and sensory details that bring the reader deep into every scene, Amy K. Sorrells has delivered a lush, modern telling of the age-old story of Tamar. But that’s not all. With a full cast of colorful characters and juxtaposed first-person narratives woven through, this story dives into the Gulf Coast culture of pecan orchards and debutante balls exposing layers of family secrets and sins. In the end comes redemption, grace, forgiveness, and faith, but not without a few scars carried by those who manage to survive the wrath of hardened hearts. Bravo!”
Julie Cantrell, New York Times bestselling author of Into the Free and When Mountains Move
“How Sweet the Sound is one of those books you want to savor slowly, like sips of sweet tea on a hot Southern day. Achingly beautiful prose married with honest, raw redemption makes this book a perfect selection for your next book club.”
Mary DeMuth, author of fifteen books, including The Muir House
“Meeting these characters and stepping into their worlds forever changed the contour of my heart. Sorrell’s words effortlessly rise from the page with a cadence that is remarkably brave and wildly beautiful.”
Toni Birdsong, author of More than a Bucket List
“Filled with brokenness and redemption, grit and grace, How Sweet the Sound is a heartrending coming-of-age debut about God’s ability to heal the hurting and restore the damaged. Sorrells deftly reminds us that no matter how dark the night, hope is never lost. Not if we have eyes to see.”
Katie Ganshert, author of Wildflowers from Winter and Wishing on Willows
“A stirring tale of loss and redemption. Amy Sorrells will break your heard and piece it back twice its size.”
Billy Coffey, author of When Mockingbirds Sing
“A daring and enchanted story, Amy K. Sorrells’s How Sweet the Sound beckons readers to a land of pecan groves, bay breezes, and graveyard secrets rising up like the dead on judgment day.”
Karen Spears Zacharias, author of Mother of Rain
“Amy Sorrells weaves an engaging tale of heart-wrenching family tragedy in stunningly beautiful lyrical prose. If you are a fan of women’s fiction, don’t miss this fresh new voice.”
Jordyn Redwood, author of the Bloodline Trilogy
“How Sweet the Sound takes on the hard things of life. Author Amy Sorrells writes with tenderness, grace, and the heartbroken voice of experience.”
Lori Borgman, columnist for McClatchy-Tribune, author of The Death of Common Sense, and national speaker
“Can love heal the pain and hurt of lies and deep secrets held across generations? This heartwarming and heart-wrenching story by Amy K. Sorrells takes us into depths of this question as one family fights back from the disaster that shatters hopes and dreams. Amy K. Sorrells takes us on a powerful journey of love and redemption, a journey the reader will not soon forget.”
Henry McLaughlin, award-winning author of Journey to Riverbend
“Amy K. Sorrells has a lyrical voice that immediately draws you into the complex lives of captivating characters and a powerful tale that will leave you breathless. This is one of those stories that will continue to live on in a reader’s mind long after turning the last page. It is hard to believe that How Sweet the Sound is a debut novel.”
Tina Ann Forkner, author of Rose House
“What a powerful story. This book reveals and heals through the power of love. I’m a better person for having read this tender-but-truthful coming-of-age tale.”
Janalyn Voigt, literary judge and author of DawnSinger
“How Sweet the Sound brings to light the wrecking torment of a sin-filled past and the aftermath of fear that paralyzes a family’s ability to cope with the present. Through the lives of a Southern family, we see just how deeply hurt people will hurt even those they love. While it’s a story of one family, it’s also a look at the world in which we live. Sorrell vividly exposes sin’s path to destruction, but leaves us with a beautiful reminder of how hope is restored when grace arrives to cover the brokenness.”
Tami Heim, president and CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance
“Sorrels has created a story of hope and redemption set in an Alabaman pecan orchard. Rich with Scripture, folk music, Creole phrases, pecan orchards, and Southern ways, Sorrels weaves a tale of generational sex abuse. I’ve never see a fiction book depict the devastation and healing process for survivors in such a candid and accurate way.”
Lucille Zimmerman, counselor, teacher, and author of Renewed
“Evocative, brutal, yet redemptive, How Sweet the Sound forces you to think long and hard about difficult subjects and pain, but it leaves you with the hope of grace and mercy. Thanks, Amy, for taking me there.”
Dave Rodriguez, senior pastor of Grace Church, Noblesville, Indiana
“Amy Sorrells reminds us of the pain that many families face when some of the members want to keep the secrets so that the family name can be protected. Hurricane Frederic, pecan harvesting, jubilees, and cotillions all reminded us of the painful and enjoyable times we’ve had growing together as a successful farm family. We pray Amy’s book will help those who have experienced similar pain.”
Mona Barfield and Sandra Bishop, B & B Pecan Company, Fairhope, AL since 1956
“A colorful, compelling novel—just what you’d expect a story of the South to be. It is alternatively explosive and introspective, but always engaging.”
Richard J. Roth, senior associate dean of Northwestern University in Qatar
“A beautiful story of God’s redeeming power to make all things new! Amy Sorrells takes her readers on a journey confronting the spiraling darkness of generational sin and experiencing healing and freedom when the light of Truth shines.”
Carmen D’Arcy Stanczykiewicz, worship arts and programming pastor at Traders Point Christian Church
“I have been a voracious reader ever since I learned to read and have enjoyed many memorable books for many different reasons. How Sweet the Sound reads with the sweetest honesty and unpretentious beauty. The word unsophisticated comes to mind and I mean that in the best possible way—sophistication is a veneer we hide behind. I’m not sure I can find the words right now to express all this book has made me feel because even though I am done with it, I don’t think it is nearly done with me.”
Carolyn O’Brien, Page & Palette Bookstore, Fairhope, AL
“This beautifully well-written book offers hope and healing from tragedy and brokenness. The believable characters come alive in this remarkable book.”
Birdie Gunyon Meyer, RN, MA, coordinator of the Perinatal Mood Disorders Program at
Indiana University Health
“There are certain books you enjoy reading until the last page, place them back on the bookshelf, and move on with your life. Then there are those you want to savor—with storylines and characters that work their way into your heart and hold fast. How Sweet the Sound is a book in the latter category. You’ll catch yourself wondering how Anniston, Comfort, and the others are getting on in life long after you’ve turned the last page and find yourself hoping you’ll meet them again soon. Amy Sorrells’s debut novel exceeded all my expectations. I can’t wait to see what she has in store next.”
Kathy “Katdish” Richards, blogger, humorist, and Internet tornado
“How Sweet the Sound offers a glimpse into the trauma and devastation of incest and abuse that impacts so many lives. Amy Sorrells’s insight brings the reader into a front-row seat to reveal the far-reaching effect that sexual abuse has on not just the victim, but the family and the community. This is a poignant story that will captivate and enlighten.”
Anita M. Carpenter, CEO of Indiana Coalition against Sexual Assualt, national speaker, and advocate for social justice