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Readers' Comments for The Sweetest Hallelujah

In July, a select group of readers who participated in one of our Women’s Fiction Author Spotlight contests won copies of THE SWEETEST HALLELUJAH by Elaine Hussey. It’s about Betty Jewel Hughes, once the hottest black jazz singer in Memphis, who gives up her dream of being a star to raise her beautiful daughter, Billie, in Shakerag, Mississippi. Now, 10 years later, in 1955, Betty Jewel is dying of cancer and looking for someone to care for Billie when she's gone. With no one she can count on, Betty Jewel does the unthinkable: she takes out a want ad seeking a loving mother for her daughter. Take a look at some of the readers' comments to give you more insight into this novel about the seemingly impossible hurdles that life presents us with, as well as the unimaginable rewards --- and make sure to watch out for SPOILERS!

I read THE SWEETEST HALLELUJAH by Elaine Hussey in a day --- I couldn't put it down. It was a story with great flow. This book was written in the years when black people were not allowed to use the same doors as white people, but love had no boundaries. I would recommend this book to all ---- very intense.

Elaine Hussey has captured the voice of Southern women in the characters she has drawn so well, at times tragic and hurtful, but always with a sense of humor. The story is reminiscent of SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT and THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES in its focus on a child surrounded by strong women who are flawed, each in her own way. It is not easy growing up under their watchful eyes, and sometimes they hold secrets that are better left unsaid. In the midst of conflict and confusion, there is always room for love. It is a great "girlfriends" book and a sharp reminder of how things were in the South of 1955.

I just finished reading THE SWEETEST HALLELUJAH by Elaine Hussey. When I read the synopsis on the jacket, it immediately captured my attention. Who wouldn't want to read about racial issues in 1955 and a dilemma that brought two very different people together?! I loved it. It was so good and well written. I would recommend this book to my friends and my mom. This book definitely touched a place in my heart. I would tell them about the plot and how intriguing it is. In fact, I've already shared it with some of my friends because I couldn't help it!

I loved this book. Of course, it will appeal to all women's fiction readers of all ages. The book also appealed to my love of Southern fiction and memoirs. I couldn't put it down until I finished the read.

THE SWEETEST HALLELUJAH by Elaine Hussey was extremely well written and carried the reader throughout the book, encouraging one to keep on reading as there were new revelations throughout. Elaine Hussey has some beautiful pictures painted with her words and the reader can imagine very easily being in the places she describes.

This book is certainly suitable for anyone except maybe a younger reader. It is a very enjoyable, fast read. THE SWEETEST HALLELUJAH deals with a myriad of topics --- racial tension, death of a loved one, cancer and finding out who you really are. I very much enjoyed reading THE SWEETEST HALLELUJAH.

The title warms my soul. The cover made my heart pitter-patter with delight! Love the colors and artwork. Plus, hummingbirds are plenty in my yard because we've planted certain flowers to attract them! Born in 1955, I was eager to read a Southern story set in that time frame. I recall the racial tension in the ‘60s, but I never understood it. I was blessed to be raised in schools that had many races and grew up intermingling with everyone. I suppose that was partly due to having parents who immigrated to the U.S. after WWII. Later, my own son would attend a school that gave all Christian and all Jewish holidays off!  

This read is so tender and so sweet --- sometimes I laughed, sometimes I cried. Often, I found myself rereading an entire page because the details were so descriptive. I could see the characters vividly in my mind's eye.

Definitely my best book for this year. I hope there are at least two sequels! This would be a surefire hit for a Hallmark miniseries. Anyone who likes Hallmark movies would adore this delicious book.

When a black jazz singer learns that she is dying of cancer, she places an ad in a local newspaper seeking someone to care for her 10-year-old daughter after she's gone. She never anticipated that this search would lead her to a privileged, white and childless widow, who is also a part-time journalist. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for this kind of story (a gutsy mom with a brave resilient child) and this kind of setting (the racially tense South in the 1950s), but this story delivered so much more. The main characters are unique and memorable, and their interactions led me to respond both with tears and with laughter.  Is the story plausible in the "real" world?  Maybe, maybe not, but the plot and character development lead to an emotionally-laden, heartwarming story that is totally realistic between the pages.  Highly recommended for readers who want to feel a connection with the characters in the books they read, especially those who like to read about individuals triumphing over racial prejudice.

I read THE SWEETEST HALLELUJAH while on vacation in America's Music Cities (New Orleans, Memphis and Tennessee). So the setting of the novel in Mississippi was appropriate. The novel was light, enjoyable reading about an unusual situation. As unrealistic as the situation seemed, the plot revealed how racial discrimination can be
dissolved with love and forgiveness. With pleasure, I will share the novel with friends.

Nikki --- This comment contains mild SPOILERS.
This book started out strong for me and I could hardly put it down. I found the story about a dying mother trying to find a good home for her daughter to be a poignant and interesting subject. The fact that it also dealt with the segregation problems in the South added another dimension to the story. Ms. Hussey writes beautifully with wonderful descriptions. 

I'm sorry to say that about three quarters of the way through the book I began to change my mind about the book. I found the relationship between the two main characters to be believable, but the acceptance (with just a small amount of resistance) of the situation by the extended families of both women was too much for me to believe. For me, the book ended too perfectly with all the families living happily ever after and the other loose ends tied together. I just don't think that is how it would have happened in real life. Because of this, I would only give the book three stars.

I would grade this book as a three on a scale of one to five with the five being the highest score. I will not describe the plot since I know that this would be redundant. I found this book to be a "page-turner," but also very unrealistic. I felt like I had read a fairy tale (complete with good vs. evil) when I completed the book. I lived in Mississippi in the 1970s and have lived in rural and urban Texas since then. I can guarantee that a white woman in the 1950s in Mississippi would never be able to adopt a racially mixed child. Her family and community would never have accepted this. I truly believe that there would have been violence and even deaths in regard to such a situation.
I found the story of the African American women to be sad and realistic, but also mesmerizing. The characters were vividly drawn and the use of vernacular language was appropriate and reminded me of folks that I have known. I especially enjoyed the metaphoric usage of the dead girl, Alice, the blues and the smell of barbeque as signs that disaster was impending. The author's descriptions were also vivid and lovely.

I found the descriptions of the white community to be accurate even if I often found many of the characters to be unpleasant or even despicable. Since I have lived in the South for years, I have known --- but not liked --- similar people. I do believe that I would have liked Cassie as she evolved into a more compassionate, accepting person. However, again, I question if her transformation was realistic. 

I have been a librarian for 40 years and suggest books to library patrons daily so I do have some expertise in this area. I would suggest this book to readers, most likely women, who enjoy reading simply for pleasure with no real analysis. If analysis was involved, I believe that the readers would be disillusioned just as I was. This book was published by Harlequin Mira. Harlequin has always been known for publishing enjoyable, but very "light" books for those who want to read for pleasure/escapism.

When I first started this book it reminded me of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, but that comparison soon ended. At one point, I thought of THE HELP, but again the similarities came to an abrupt and slightly disappointing halt. This is a nice book and a sweet story, but with more work and perhaps a stronger editor it could have been a GREAT book. Set in Mississippi in 1955, the book focuses on a young black girl and the inevitable death of her cancer-ridden mother. Sadly the timeline is very fuzzy and the characters lack the "roundness" that they need. Potentially explosive situations are never developed, but abruptly ended with a look or a word. The ultimate acceptance of a supposedly unfathomable situation is all too smooth. I want to know how a secret was kept for so many years in a household that suddenly could not hold anything back. I want to know how one man can accept a child who he couldn't have possibly fathered, while another man never notices that his selfish act has had serious and obvious consequences. I would say this book is a great beginning --- now the author needs to go back and answer the questions her scenarios raise. I want to read the great book that this should have been.

I did not enjoy THE SWEETEST HALLELUJAH. The characters were very well developed, but there wasn't much action. I had thought from the description that the book would be what happened after Billie was adopted. The happy ending struck me as false after all the tension among the whites in town. It seemed like that just got glossed over.