Shaking The Sugar Tree by Nick Wilgus

Title: Shaking The Sugar Tree

Author:  Nick Wilgus

Pages: 304 Pages (Novel)

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press

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Wise-cracking Wiley Cantrell is loud and roaringly outrageous—and he needs to be to keep his deeply religious neighbors and family in the Deep South at bay. A failed writer on food stamps, Wiley works a minimum wage job and barely manages to keep himself and his deaf son, Noah, more than a stone’s throw away from Dumpster-diving.

Noah was a meth baby and has the birth defects to prove it. He sees how lonely his father is and tries to help him find a boyfriend while Wiley struggles to help Noah have a relationship with his incarcerated mother, who believes the best way to feed a child is with a slingshot. No wonder Noah becomes Wiley’s biggest supporter when Boston nurse Jackson Ledbetter walks past Wiley’s cash register and sets his sugar tree on fire.

Jackson falls like a wet mule wearing concrete boots for Wiley’s sense of humor. And while Wiley represents much of the best of the South, Jackson is hiding a secret that could threaten this new family in the making.

When North meets South, the cultural misunderstandings are many, but so are the laughs, and the tears, but, as they say down in Dixie, it’s all good.

Shaking the Sugar Tree, by Nick Wilgus will have you in stiches from start to finish. Wiley Cantrell is about as southern as they come and does not apologize for it. He’s also a single, gay father to Noah, who happens to be deaf. They face quite a few struggles together, and among those will be heartache, especially heartache from a parent when your child is hurting and you can’t really fix it. You just have to be there for support and Wiley does that in spades.
Wiley works at a grocery store as a cashier in order to support him and Noah. It’s not the best job, the pay is low, the benefits suck, the management only cares about their bottom line, but Wiley needs the job. The author nailed the characterization of Wiley and the experiences of a cashier.
I’ve been one before and his inner musings were spot on.
Working as a cashier isn’t all that bad considering that is how he meets Jackson Ledbetter, the next best thing besides Noah to come into Wiley’s life. Jackson is as different from Wiley as he could possibly be. He’s from the North, a college education, a good paying job as a pediatric nurse, and is not use to the bigotry that runs rampant through the south.
Jackson, however, is willing to look over some things if it allows him to be a part of Wiley and Noah’s life.
When he meets Wiley’s family…well, I can only say that he was in for a big shock. One of the funniest and best parts of this story is Wiley’s grandfather. He will have you either laughing so hard or your mouth will be hanging open at the disbelief of what comes out of his mouth. He is crude, rude, loud, and obnoxious, but most of all, he is hysterical. He’s too old to punch so it’s probably best just to go with the flow and either ignore him or agree with him.
The rest of Wiley’s family, especially his brother, will have you spitting nails. I have never laughed so hard and wanted to punch someone as bad as I did when they went for Sunday dinner. Bill, Wiley’s brother, is a bigot and the biggest jackass there ever was. I could not stand him and I’m still not crazy about him. Jackson doesn’t like him much either and I don’t blame him.
Noah is the highlight of this story. He was born addicted to meth because his mother continued to shoot up through her pregnancy. She has never been a part of Noah’s life and as a 10 year old boy, he can’t understand what he has done wrong for her to hate him so. It’s heartbreaking as he goes through turmoil and so much pain trying to makes heads or tails about his mom.
Wiley is an amazing father. He understands Noah better than anyone and before Jackson came into their lives, he and Noah were pretty much by themselves. Never having much family support he has raised Noah on his own and to the best of his ability. He, like any parent, only wants what’s best for Noah and will do anything to see that happen.
This story was unlike anything I have ever read before. Nick Wilgus has a unique writing style that keeps you completely invested in the story. The dialogue, while sometimes a tad confusing, was funny and kept me fully engaged and hanging onto every word. I thought the execution of the plot was really gratifying and flowed seamlessly.
The humor and banter between Wiley and Jackson constantly kept me on the edge of my seat laughing and sometimes squirming as Wiley has no filter on what he says. Noah, even through the use of sign language takes after his father with his quirkiness and odd sense of humor. Together, they are the perfect team, and now that Jackson has entered the equation I can’t wait to see what they get into. Book 2, Stones in the Road, is up next and I am looking forward to the journey.