book review

“Stay as Sweet as you Are” from Four Corners Vol II

Last week’s Four Corners tale There are Smiles that Make you Happy and this week’s have a lot in common. Both see the world through young eyes. Both have a love triangle. Hell, both of them have a moment when the narrator childishly refuses to attend a wedding because he doesn’t like one member of the couple. It’s the same narrator! I could complain about the repetition in a five-story collection, but I won’t. Stay as Sweet as you Are is filled with its own unique pleasures. My feeling for the rhythms and people of Four Corners has only deepened after reading it.

The Angevine Sisters run the town’s sweet shop. Belle is the master baker. She’s young and sweet with a lust for life. Unfortunately, her desires are constantly quashed by Melina, a stern, cruel woman who, after losing her chance to wed (she’s 38 for Christ’s sake!), has made it her life’s mission to deflect any suitors for her younger sister Belle.

Our narrator is (once again) Bud Whittier. He’s the sheriff’s boy which comes in handy later in the story when he overhears investigatory chatter. Bud is naturally drawn to Belle who gladly gives him scraps of fudge. He despises Melina. She accuses Bud of theft and constantly speaks ill of all men in front of the boy. Roscoe is quite good at letting us sympathize with the limited understanding of the child. We have to piece together the mystery by using things we know he sees incorrectly.

A southern pharmacist named Stick Hilton sets up a drugstore across from the sweet shop. Stick’s sweet and polite and looking to settle down. He makes a play for Belle, but then…well, he ends up engaged to the evil hag instead. How this comes to be and the twisted vengeance that follows is a lot of fun.

We’re told early on that a poisoning takes place (I’m not spoiling anything). The fact that a drugstore is across from a candy shop is like some wonderful play on Chekhov’s gun. But of course, we don’t know who poisoned whom or how. The way the poisoning ultimately plays out is extremely satisfying. There’s a whirlwind of shifting guilt and innocence that acts like a detective story. Even though that’s not what we got at the beginning of the story, it doesn’t feel tacked on or shoehorned in. It feels like a naturally complex way to wrap things up.

My God, next week this is over. I’ll review Ghost on Lonesome Hill. You won’t want to miss it. This has been great fun matching reviews with TheInvisibleEvent. Although, I have just discovered that he wasn’t as enamored with this story as I was. No one else, however, has done more to bring Roscoe into the spotlight. You can read raves for his stuff all over the internet. including at The GreenCapsule and at the invaluable BeneaththeStainsofTIme. Don’t you think it’s time you gave Four Corners a try?

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