“And we loved each other. God, how we loved each other. There were times when we’d do nothing but kiss for hours on end, wallowing in our feelings.”

Katherine Allred


Alix French was only eight years old when she had her first close encounter with Nick Anderson. They knew each other from school, but they never interacted, as they were not part of the same social circle. While Alix’s family was part of Morganville’s elite and one of the most respected families in town, Nick’s father, Frank Anderson, was a person who cared nothing about respectability.

Despite prejudices and social differences, Alix and Nick start a friendship that will stand the test of time and that, later, with their transition into adolescence, will develop into something more.

When the future looks best for Alix and Nick, everything falls apart. He is forced to leave the town, while she is left behind. In the years to come, everything around Alix will crumble and her love for Nick will slowly be replaced by anger and hatred.

The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred – Book Review

The Sweet Gum Tree is one of the greatest contemporary books I have ever read. The story is very emotional and it captivated me from the very first pages. If you expect an easy and relaxing read, I must tell you that this book is exactly the opposite. Alix and Nick’s story will consume you even days after reading the book. Throughout the book, the narrator’s tone feels sad, melancholic and often nostalgic and this will greatly influence the reader’s disposition.

The book is divided into two parts, both narrated by Alix. The story follows Alix and Nick’s growth from childhood into adulthood, their friendship as children, their love as teenagers and their separation at the bridge to adulthood.

The second part of the book takes place 15 years after Nick’s departure. Nick returns to his hometown and inevitable, in Alix’s life, hoping that he can win back her friendship and maybe, even her love. The problem is that while he was gone, Alix went through hell and back, her feelings for him being altered by tragedy.

“As time went on, I became numb inside, a condition I welcomed and struggled to maintain. I felt nothing, not anger, or joy, or sadness. Life was easier that way. Then, fifteen years after he left, Nick came home.”


The Sweet Gum Tree is a coming of age story, filled with angst and drama. The story focuses on love, loss and redemption. The plot is really interesting, filled with twists and turns. Some of them are predictable, but most of them are not. I was hooked from the very first pages of the book and I went through all the possible emotional states. My anger and hatred grew with the same intensity as Alix’s (you will understand me once you read the book).

Beyond the plot, I loved the symbolism of the book. The title of the book is not randomly chosen, nor are the numerous references to the sweet gum tree in the introduction. The tree is a symbol/metaphor for Nick.

“He always was someone. Because the core of the sweet gum tree never changes. Like Nick, the deep red wood stays true to its nature. Strong, and steady, and pure.”


Similar book recommendations

The first book that comes to my mind when I think to The Sweet Gum Tree is Back to You by Priscilla Glenn. The plot of Back to You shares a lot of similarities with Katherine’s novel. The characters, the story and the tropes are quite similar. Back to You is a second chance romance between two childhood sweethearts. After a failed high school relationship which broke Lauren’s heart, Michael and Lauren, meet again 8 years later in different circumstances. The story is told in present day, but also has flashbacks from the past which are helpful to better understand the motives behind their actions.

I also recommend reading What Price Paradise by Katherine Allred. The book is not similar to The Sweet Gum Tree but is written by the same author.