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The Cicada Tree

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Member Reviews

This novel has a distinct voice with rich, opulent writing but there was something about it that made me uncomfortable and I did not want to continue reading. I think readers who enjoy southern gothic novels with something sinister going on under the surface will enjoy this one.
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An immersive gothic southern tale painted with rich language and hints of the supernatural.  

In the summer of 1956, the cicadas emerge from there long slumber in Providence, Georgia, and the secrets that they kept buried alongside them threaten to upend the whole town.  The book centers around the friendship of young girls.  But it’s so much more than that.  Obsession.  Hatred.  Evil.  Lies.  Oh the lies!

This is a story that makes you cringe and while fully captivating. It’s dark and sinister.  Gothic at its best.  And the only thing better than the gothic vibes are the southern ones. 

Gwaltney’s writing has a way of drawing you in to small town life in cinematic detail… from the political and societal expectations to the aromas and beauty of the landscape.  The dichotomy between the beauty and the sinister is executed with such precision, you sometimes have to question to which category a scene fits.   

This debut dazzles with its dark and dramatic nature.  As you read, you’ll wonder… is it the cicadas or Gwaltney himself that has me under this spell?    

Many thanks to @robertgwaltneyjr  and @getredpr for this #gifted copy.
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Review of The Cicada Tree by @robertgwaltneyjr 


This book was so refreshing and different from my normal reads and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was beautifully written and I felt in truly was in the south in the 1950s while reading it. I was extremely invested in the story and the characters throughout the entire novel. I can’t wait to see what is next for this amazing author.

Quick synopsis: In the summer of 1956, 11 year old Analeise meets a wealthy and powerful mother and daughter and becomes fascinated by both. But quickly it becomes apparent that this interest will not have the innocent outcomes one would assume. 

Thanks so much to @getredprbooks, @robertgwaltneyjr, and moonshine cove publishing for a copy of this book.

QOTD: do you remember any times with cicadas? I absolutely do when I was a child. Are you scared of insects? They don’t bother me much.
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The Cicada Tree
Author, Robert Gwaltney
Pub date: 4.7.22

Thank you @getredpr and @robertgwaltneyjr for my gifted copy and for having me on tour! Thank you also to NetGalley and Moonshine Publishing for the opportunity to read both an e-arc and a finished copy. 

I don't think I've ever read anything quite as unique as The Cicada Tree. Set in Providence, Georgia during the summer of 1956, Gwaltney's captivating debut is filled with vivid imagery, Southern verbage, and a shocking story line. An emotional read brimming with fear and hope, the beauty of young friendship along with the challenges, jealousies, and pressures of being an eleven- year- old female, and of such beauty and ugliness deep within the human character, that it is both incredibly fascinating and disturbingly unsettling at the same time. 

I felt transported into this mysteriously eerie Southern story of Analeise Newell, a young girl who is trying to understand her place in the world. Analeise is an eleven- year- old piano prodigy, who has dark thoughts, strange habits, and harbors violent secrets. She and her Mama visit Mistletoe, the wealthy Mayfield Plantation one Saturday, and Analeise meets the stunningly beautiful Cordelia Mayfield and her precocious, manipulative, and similarly beautiful daughter, Marlissa. Mrs. Mayfield treats Analeise bizarrely- she whispers a strange name in her ear and harshly slaps her across the face. Startled, but also strangely fascinated by this encounter, Analeise becomes obsessed with the Mayfield's and longs to befriend and be a part of the "Mayfield Shine."

During an almost supernatural storm that seemed to be set off by superhuman gifts and mysteries, a plague of cicadas emerge upon the town and with them, set off a series of dangerous events that unveil dark secrets between Analeise and Marlissa's families that are absolutely shocking. The last 100 pages or so had me positively hooked!

This Southern Gothic debut was written with such incredible talent, I look forward to reading what Gwaltney comes out with next!
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The Cicada Tree is the story of two young girls whose friendship sparks obsession, manipulation, and a chain of life-altering events during the sultry Georgia summer of 1956. 

What a fantastic debut novel!  I’m a huge fan of southern lit, and this book hits all the notes!  

The story of Analeise, Etta Mae, and Marlissa offers a stark contrast of light and darkness, hope and fear, love and obsession. Gwaltney brews a mystery where everyone holds a secret. As the secrets unfold, the cicadas appear to gather these secrets. The louder the cicada song grew, the faster I turned the page.  I love this air of supernatural!  

But the madness doesn’t stop with the cacophony of cicadas.  Gwaltney adds the stifling heat of a Georgia summer, a spooky manor house, and Marlissa’s mother, who’s stuck in her own madness caused by her son's death.  The descriptions and symbolism go beyond what I expected for a debut novel.    

Anyone who loves southern lit must read this book!  The Cicada Tree is also a terrific novel for any book club.  I foresee deep discussions causing your book club to go longer than expected.
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From its first lush sentence to its last, this book weaves a web of magical charm much like the Mayfield family so evocatively described within its pages. There are books with remarkable stories and books with sumptuous prose. This book is wonderfully both. Gwaltney cooks up a southern-fried story of big themes in a small town, at times channeling Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. At the heart of the story is an 11-year-old girl’s fascination with a wealthy family, but what beats through its pages is so much more: themes of identity, loss, evil, and madness, culminating in a cicada song that will leave lasting impressions on its characters and readers alike. A classic from page one.
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First off, I want to thank @getredprbooks @robertgwaltneyjr and #moonshinecovepublishing for this gifted copy of this magnificent book. It is a true Southern Gothic novel that grips you from the beginning to the last page. It is hard to believe that this is a debut novel for Robert Gwaltney. This is one not to be missed and one you will have trouble putting down!

Synopsis: Summer of 1956, a brood of cicadas descends upon Providence, Georgia, a natural event with supernatural repercussions, unhinging the life of Analeise Newell, an eleven-year-old piano prodigy. Amidst this emergence, dark obsessions are stirred, uncanny gifts provoked, and secrets unearthed. 
During a visit to Mistletoe, a plantation owned by the wealthy Mayfield family, Analeise encounters Cordella Mayfield and her daughter Marlissa, who both possess an otherwordly beauty, a lineal trait regarded as that Mayfiend Shine. A whisper and an act of violence perpertrated during this visit by Mrs. Mayfield all converge to kindle Analeise’s fascination with the Mayfields. This culminates into dangerous games and manipulation, setting of a chain of events with life-altering consequences- all of it unfolding to the maddening whir of a cicada song.
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Once I started this novel, I couldn’t put it down.  The Cicada Tree is a fantastic story set in the south in 1956.  Annalise’s is a piano prodigy, and her best friend, Etta May, has an angelic singing voice.  When the story begins, the cicadas have just returned after thirteen years and uncover long buried  family secrets.
This is beautiful storytelling and completely immersed me in small town Georgia life.  I love coming of age and family drama fiction, and in this novel, the wealthy, beautiful and entrancing Mayfields lives intersect with the humbler family of Analiese and her mama.  The writing is beautiful and captured so much detail.  I haven’t seen enough of it on #bookstagram abs I hope lovers of southern fiction will seek this out.  I can’t wait for more from this author.
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I love a good gothic novel, and this did not disappoint.
A young girl is obsessed with a wealthy family and all the secrets that they hold.
Every twist and revelation had me on the edge of my seat and flipping pages LATE INTO THE NIGHT.
I am thoroughly looking forward to more from this author.
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I think the Author is a wonderful writer, the Characters are very well  thought out, I had to keep going back to the book to get it finished, It took me awhile to fully get Involved in the story, but once I did, It turned out to be a good book, Thank you to Net Galley  for allowing me to read and review the book.
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I 100% chose this book based off of the title and cover. Last summer where I live was when we experienced the emergence of the Brood X cicadas. And I love (most) bugs. So even though this isn't a genre I usually read, I thought I'd give it a shot.

The Cicada Tree is told through 11-year-old Analeise's point of view in 1950s Providence, Georgia. It's a slow-moving, mild, psychological thriller during which Analeise becomes captivated by the Mayfield family. The first half plods along taking its sweet time to introduce the reader to most of the characters and their personalities. To be honest, it moved a bit too slowly for me, particularly since certain synopsis highlights only come to focus in the last half of the book. The second half, however, reads at a faster clip as the mind games begin and Analeise becomes evermore enthralled by the Mayfields.

Though the ending felt abrupt to me, and left me unsatisfied, Gwaltney kept me guessing at what would happen next. Every time I thought I knew what a character would do, they ended up doing something I didn't expect. Only near the end did I more or less figure out one piece of this strange game of manipulation. (However, I don't usually read psychological thrillers, so there's also a chance I'm just not great at this type of guessing game.) I don't quite understand how the cicada explosion fits into the story, so I decided to just go with it. Maybe it has to do with the imagery of emerging. That is, like the cicada brood, Annaleise finds herself emerging into a cruel corner of her community.

"I could taste it right away, the feeling in Etta Mae's soprano--the taste of want. It was like cinnamon. Only a smattering. Red hot and honeyed. Then fading. Lingering just long enough to scald my tongue."
Loc 557

Another interesting and unexpected aspect I enjoyed is that Analeise can see and taste music, which is a form of synesthesia. The way Gwaltney describes how Analeise senses the various notes and tone of the music was beautiful. In fact, I loved all of Gwaltney's descriptive prose.  I'm not an expert on the culture of 1950s Georgia, but the way Gwaltney described it made me feel like I was there experiencing all the conversational analogies and "isms."  One particular favorite quote of mine is:

"We tolerated her like a fly at a picnic."
Loc 895

The author characterizes well the desire to be included, particularly among Analeise's female peer group. The desire to fit in can be so alluring that even the stronger-minded find themselves stuck like a bug in a web. Gwaltney also captures the sweetness of the innocent and more oblivious in Etta Mae, Analeise's friend. 

Overall, The Cicada Tree is an interesting historical fiction psychological thriller. Though I enjoyed the writing, I felt the pace of the story was off. This type of story also ended up not being for me, so take my opinions with a grain of salt.  I think if you're a fan of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (which I also rated similarly), then you'll enjoy this book.
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Set in the Deep South during the 1950s, THE CICADA TREE is everything I love about Southern Gothic Fiction. From intriguing characters with unique abilities to a sweeping, expansive, mysterious mansion, all the way to down by the river, Robert Gwaltney’s debut novel drew me in and pulled me ever deeper, down to the depths with this fascinating cast. Enchanting story, even more enchanting writing, I’m looking forward to more from Gwaltney.

My thanks to Moonshine Cove Publishing and NetGalley for an ARC.
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A slow build up to a fever dream crescendo. A southern gothic set in the segregated south with snippets of magical realism threaded throughout.

Analeise is an 11 year-old piano prodigy who can taste beautiful music especially the beautiful voice of her friend Etta Mae. Her momma is a woman who can see snippets of the future in her sewing. When her mom brings her with to the Mayfield house and she gets a glimpse of their opulent life, Analeise is immediately drawn in. Stuck in the web of the Mayfield's shine she becomes obsessed with connecting with the daughter Marlissa. But tangling with the Mayfields may lead to more problems than positives for Analeise and her closest family and friends.

The book, to me, felt like 2 scenes of a play. Analeise trying to find her place and fit in while we meet the key players and build tension in act 1. Act 2 the dam breaking and all of the tension tumbling out in the last quarter of the book.
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I enjoyed the Cicada Tree! I felt transported to a different time and place! 

The summer of 1956, a brood of cicadas descends upon Providence Georgia, a natural event with supernatural repercussions, unhinging the life of Analeise Newell, an eleven-year-old piano prodigy. Amidst this emergence, dark obsessions are stirred, uncanny gifts provoked, and secrets unearthed.

During a visit to Mistletoe, a plantation owned by the wealthy Mayfield family, Analeise encounters Cordelia Mayfield and her daughter Marlissa, both of whom possess an otherworldly beauty. A whisper, a sense of déjà vu, and an act of violence perpetrated during this visit by Mrs. Mayfield all converge to kindle Analeise’s fascination with the Mayfields.

Analeise’s burgeoning obsession with the Mayfield family overshadows her own seemingly, ordinary life, culminating in dangerous games and manipulation, setting off a chain of cataclysmic events with life-altering consequences—all of it unfolding to the maddening whir of a cicada song.
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Such a unique plot, and cover. Cicadas are so creepy, but this cover made them less so. The Author did a great job with keeping my interest.
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This was just too weird for me…especially the ending. If you like fantastical stories, you will probably like this one. It just was not for me.
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It’s book review time. I stepped outside my comfort zone a little bit this time with an historical fiction book. The Cicada Tree by Robert Gwaltney was released yesterday (the 22nd) from Moonshine Cove Publishing. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for giving me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it.

The Cicada Tree follows Analeise Newell, an 11-year-old who is trying to navigate life in 1956 Georgia. Emotions run high as she struggles to figure out how everything she loves fits together: her friendship with Etta Mae, her crush on Abel Darlington, and her newfound obsession with the Mayfields. As Analeise digs into her obsession, she finds more darkness than she bargains for in that Mayfield shine she’s so attracted to. It’s all set against the backdrop of summer in Georgia when the whine of the cicadas can either lull you to sleep or drive you crazy.

I’ll be honest, this book wasn’t for me. I’m all for southern gothic and blending supernatural into regular fiction, but something about this book kept me from getting into it. I think it’s because the ages of the characters just didn’t feel right. Analeise and the rest of the kids all seemed more like teenagers than 11-year-olds. I’d go as young as 14, but honestly I kept thinking they were closer to 16 or so. Yes, I realize that younger kids can be stupidly vicious too, but the vocabulary and most of the actions just felt older. There were a few scenes where I thought “okay, these are younger kids,” but they were few and far between.

The fact that the book was written in first person from Analeise’s perspective didn’t help with the age issue. If we’re that close to a character, I expect the narrative voice to fit the age of the character, but it didn’t. Maybe the story is being told from grown-Analeise’s perspective. If that’s the case, fine. But there was nothing to suggest that in the book. At least not the version I had access to. I saw somewhere that the final version is supposed to have an epilogue, so maybe it becomes clearer in there.

Actually, an epilogue would be really helpful because the ending left things super vague and not even in a “create your own ending” kind of way. It was completely unsatisfying. Like, I might look for it at my library just to see if anything is cleared up in the final version. I’m not tempted enough to buy it, but I’ll definitely check the library system for it.

The writing itself was a little purple for me. It wasn’t bad by any means, just a tad overly descriptive for my tastes. And I normally talk about the characters, but I had zero sympathy for any of them, except maybe Abel. He was an okay kid. Etta Mae was too angelic. Everyone else was too selfish for me to get behind.

Ultimately, I wasn’t a fan of The Cicada Tree. Maybe I’ll like it a little better if I see the epilogue, but I doubt it. There was too much I didn’t care for. If I come across something else by Gwaltney, I’d look at it because the writing was okay, but I won’t be searching for anything.

Overall, I gave it 2 out of 5 stars. If you’re into southern gothic and are interested in the premise, give it a shot. If not, you’re not missing anything.
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This started slow for me and I wasn't enjoying the writing, I almost DNF'd the book. I'm glad I kept going though as it turned a point in which I was totally gripped and wanting to know how things turned out. The writing seemed to shift as well, or at least it felt much better and definitely gave me vibes of another time. Anyone who has heard cicadas knows the sound and it could be felt while reading this book, a definite character in their own right. The ending was a bit dramatic but I could understand how it came about. Overall, a great debut and an author I will check out again in the future.
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Reminiscent, in style, to the writings of Reynolds Price, The Cicada Tree is a memorable coming of age story, set in the 1950’s Deep South. Debut author Robert Gwaltney gives us characters steeped in naïveté, juxtaposed with continuous,underlying currents of darkness.

Pour yourself a sweet tea and head out to the sleeping porch. Let the buzz of the cicadas transport you to 1956 Providence, Georgia. It’s a journey you’ll never forget.
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The Cicada Tree
by: Robert Gwaltney 
Moonshine Cove Publishing
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction
Publication date: 2/22/22

In The Cicada Tree, Robert Gwaltney proves himself masterful of language to evoke atmosphere, imagery, and awareness for his readers. His skill takes us deep into the intricacies and complexities of 1956 Georgia for a story that swirls within and around eleven-year-old Analeise Newell. Her relationships with other young girls range from friendship to obsession, admiration to jealousy, and everything in between. The adult characters are well developed and intriguing. The mystery surrounding the true interconnections of all characters is one that keeps the pages turning in search of resolution. Components of race and social class add depth. 

Gwaltney excels in regional and character details, with words, phrasing, and timing that left me fully immersed in his stirring storyline of secrets, manipulation, and confusion. Precise descriptions of dresses, perfume, food and music, for example, provided complete sensory connections to the sights, smells, tastes, emotions, and sounds presented in the chapters. 

I cannot remember reading a book with such mystical and supernatural style, plus a completely original, seamless, and often shocking flow of events. Certainly, there is not a character like Analeise, nor a brood of cicadas in my memory. Gwaltney simply knows how to write in a mesmerizing, lyrical and exquisite manner. This is an outstanding debut novel for him, and the sky is the limit for his future. 

Thank you to Net Galley and Moonshine Cove Publishing for the advance reader's copy and opportunity to provide my unbiased review. 
 #thecicadatree #NetGalley
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