Genre: Fairy Tales
As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch's forest threatening to make them disappear, too.
Years later, when their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out, they find themselves in sleepy Live Oak, South Carolina. They're invited to stay with Sophia Kelly, a beautiful candy maker who molds sugary magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.
Life seems idyllic and Gretchen and Ansel gradually forget their haunted past — until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel. He tells her the witch isn't gone — it's lurking in the forest, preying on girls every year after Live Oak's infamous chocolate festival, and looking to make Gretchen its next victim. Gretchen is determined to stop running and start fighting back. Yet the further she investigates the mystery of what the witch is and how it chooses its victims, the more she wonders who the real monster is.
Gretchen is certain of only one thing: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.
Where was this novel during college when I wrote my dissertation on the sacrifice motif in fairy tales? To put it bluntly, this novel is wonderful. From the first sentence I was hooked. I could not put Sweetly down. Not only did the subtle references to motifs and themes common to traditional fairy tales tickle my love for folklore, but Pearce's descriptions of the painful torment of losing a sibling--a twin--are heart wrenching. The reader cannot help but become emotionally attached to Gretchen. Once again, I appreciate the maturity of the protagonist, Gretchen, and her brother Ansel. Gretchen and Ansel have a strong sense of reason and adult maturity that tells of life quickly thrust into adulthood.
Pearce's interpretation of the age-old tale of Hansel and Gretel combines the supernatural elements of pagan influenced folklore with the beliefs and customs of modern society. These supernatural elements are tastefully subtle and add mystery to the plot. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the novel is the somewhat tragic ending. I love the "what goes around comes around" finale. This novel is definitely one that I will enjoy reading again and again.