Cold Sassy Tree Study Guide

Cold Sassy Tree By Olive Ann Burns

In 1906, Rucker Blakeslee announces his marriage to Miss Love Simpson, a milliner three years his junior. His family is shocked, because his wife Mattie Lou died just three weeks earlier. His daughters in particular worry about what the town gossips will say.

Will Tweedy, Rucker's grandson and the novel's narrator, thinks Miss Love is nice and pretty and that Rucker will need someone to look after him now that Mattie Lou is gone. In the opening of the novel, Will survives a near-hit from a train by laying on the tracks and having the train pass over his head, making him something of a sensation in the small town of Cold Sassy.

Gossip spreads, and Rucker is practically a town villain for his hasty remarriage, but Will becomes friends with Miss Love, whom he daydreams of often, claiming her large breasts look like puppies peeking over a fence. He learns that there is no love between Rucker and Miss Love - their marriage is a sham; he simply wanted a housekeeper, and promised her the deed to the place in exchange.

Will watches as Miss Love's former fiancé, Clayton McAllister, arrives in town and kisses Miss Love to attempt to win her back. He fails, but Will dreams of kissing Miss Love like Clayton did. Later, Will and his friends go to pick up a horse for Miss Love. Shortly after, he and his parents plan to take a trip to New York to pick up goods for Rucker's store, but Rucker uses the tickets to take Miss Love instead. Clayton's mother, Miss Hoyt, is furious and decides that it's Miss Love's fault. Mister Hoyt, to distract her, buys a car -- the first car in Cold Sassy.

When Rucker returns, he's starting to show signs of affection for Miss Love, and he has also purchased a car. He announces plans to start selling cars in Cold Sassy. Will takes a girl from his class on a ride in his father's car, and kisses her. The gossips get the word back to Mr. Hoyt, who is upset because the girl is a commoner, and he forbids Will from driving his car for two months.

Instead, Will goes to Rucker and borrows his car, even giving Rucker and Miss Love driving lessons. On the way back, he crashes the car, and they are forced to stay with a nearby family overnight. Will overhears Rucker profess his true love for Miss Love, who admonishes him that no man could love her if they knew her secret. He implores her, and she admits that she was raped by her father when she was younger. Rucker doesn't care, but Miss Love sends him away anyway.

Finally, Rucker and Miss Love do actually fall in love. Rucker hires Will's nemesis, Hosie Roach, to work at the store, and Hosie's new income allows him to woo and marry the girl that Will kissed in the car. Ruker catches pneumonia, and as he is dying, Will overhears him telling Miss Love that God provides strength and comfort in times of trouble, and he is moved by the dramatic message. Miss Love tells Will that she is pregnant with Rucker's child, and while the town may never accept her, they will accept the child - so she is not leaving Cold Sassy.

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