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By Todd Spann | FREELANCER
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A tribute to wanderlust
By Todd Spann

"The Yonder Side of Sass and Texas," a journey in the form of a novel from local author Joanna Beth Tweedy, will take you from southern Illinois to the Scottish highlands to the Moroccan Sahara and many places in between.

This fanciful work of fiction is a collection of intertwined stories told by many different narrators, with sisters Arkansas (Sass) and Texas MacTerptin handling the bulk of the narration. The story begins as Sass and Texas are growing up in the Shawnee Hills, an area in southern Illinois surrounded by the Ozarks and Appalachian regions, and follows these two sisters as they share a journey together discovering the world.

The novel, Tweedy says, celebrates family, language - especially the illustrative and metaphoric language of our region - the wonder and wander of faraway lands, the gravitational tug of home, and the capital-m Mystery that is life.

With a heart full of wanderlust, travel has been a defining characteristic of Tweedy's work and life.

"I have spent a considerable amount of time journeying overseas, and I am profoundly grateful for travel's insistence on presenting us with a keener awareness of a wider world," Tweedy says. 

The journey that Sass and Texas take in the "The Yonder Side" is a reflection of Tweedy's real-life adventures. The sisters find themselves wrapped in a foreign adventure, far removed from their childhood days, and start to feel the gravitational tug of home. 

Tweedy says she has had a "crush on books" since she learned to read, and her passion for writing is rooted in her passion for reading.

This passion is evident in "The Yonder Side," as each sentence is carefully and poetically crafted to lure you into the world of Sass and Texas. Their world is full of folksy characters, such as Grandpa Jelly, Dog Dentleman, Cockeye Murk and five other sisters who are also named after states: Montana, Alabama, Michigan, Delaware and Nevada.

Tweedy says that although the characters in the book are derived from her experiences, they are all mere fabrications and no single person, incident, or place is a reproduction of those she's come to know in her life.While the people and places have had a great influence on her life, Tweedy says, "The Yonder Side" was derived from her values and things that are important to her: faith, family, home, travel and the celebration of language.

The endearing characters, all with distinct voices, along with the adventures and friendships that are made, make Tweedy's "The Yonder Side of Sass and Texas" a pleasurable romp through varied landscapes, rife with alliteration and, all in all, a fun read.

About the author
Joanna Beth Tweedy is currently the associate dean of academic affairs at Benedictine University in Springfield. She is the founding editor and host of Quiddity International Literary Journal and Public-Radio Program at Benedictine.

Her poetry and fiction have been published in literary journals and anthologies and have received honors from Glimmer Train, the Southern Women Writers Conference, Alsop Review, New Millennium Writing, the Ray Bradbury Creative Writing Contest, Life Press and Long Story Short.

 

Story published Friday, December 3, 2010 ( Volume 5, Number 7 )

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