The Cicada Tree by Robert Gwaltney

March 21st, 2024 Kimberly Review 10 Comments

21st Mar

The Cicada Tree by Robert Gwaltney delivered a southern gothic tale with magical realism and touches of the macabre. Narrated by Allyson Johnson, fans of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic will want to reach for this lush story with twists, southern charm and characters you’ll long remember after the story is told.

The Cicada Tree by Robert Gwaltney
The Cicada Tree
by Robert Gwaltney
Narrator: Allyson Johnson
Length: 11 hours and 16 minutes
Genres: Magical Realism
Source: Publisher
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
Rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Narration: 5 cups Speed: 1.5x

The summer of 1956, a brood of cicadas descends upon Providence Georgia, a natural event with supernatural repercussions, unhinging the life of Analeise Newell, an eleven-year-old piano prodigy. Amidst this emergence, dark obsessions are stirred, uncanny gifts provoked, and secrets unearthed.

During a visit to Mistletoe, a plantation owned by the wealthy Mayfield family, Analeise encounters Cordelia Mayfield and her daughter Marlissa, both of whom possess an otherworldly beauty. A whisper, a sense of déjà vu, and an act of violence perpetrated during this visit by Mrs. Mayfield all converge to kindle Analeise’s fascination with the Mayfields.

Analeise’s burgeoning obsession with the Mayfield family overshadows her own seemingly, ordinary life, culminating in dangerous games and manipulation, setting off a chain of cataclysmic events with life-altering consequences—all of it unfolding to the maddening whir of a cicada song.

historical Magical Realism Small-town Southern

The author transports us to the summer of 1956, where cicadas have descended upon the segregated town of Providence, Georgia. Here we meet Analeise Newell, an eleven-year-old piano prodigy. She spends her days playing with the help’s daughter, Etta Mae. Her mother works at the factory and her Dad drinks their earnings. Analeise hints it wasn’t always this way, and that something happened.

The girls are likable, and the author’s vivid prose brought the world to life. I could feel the humid nights, hear the cicadas and the wind blow. When Analeise travels to Mistletoe, a plantation owned by the wealthy Mayfield family with her momma, she encounters Cordelia Mayfield and her daughter Marlissa. The two possess an unworldly beauty, and Analeise is drawn to them and the song being played on the piano. Despite an unsettling scene that hints of darkness and secrets, that visit opens up a fascination in young Analeise.

The tale that unfolds held me spellbound as secrets are revealed, and tragic events occur that were unexpected and riveting. There is a tinge of horror wrapped in the magical realism and tea as sweet as honey wrapped in the southern charm.

The characters are vividly painted and well developed. These are characters you’ll remember. Miss Wessie, the take-no-sass caretaker of the Newell family, was the glue that held them together. While Analeise could be prickly, you couldn’t help but feel for the girl.

From playground politics to the ways of southern men, Gwaltney captured the south. He highlights the segregation and economic disparity of this small-town. The pacing built to a crescendo that made me unable to stop listening until the very end. The magical realism had a dark undertone that enhanced this southern gothic tale.

Allyson Johnson’s narration was like honey, and the writing lent beautifully to the audio format. I highly recommend listening.

The Cicada Tree is Robert Gwaltney debut novel and I cannot wait to see what he writes next.

Amazon* | Audible


About Robert Gwaltney

Robert Gwaltney

Robert Gwaltney, award winning author of southern fiction, is a graduate of Florida State University. He resides in Atlanta Georgia with his partner, where he is an active member of the Atlanta literary community. By day, he serves as Vice President of Easter Seals North Georgia, Inc., Children Services, a non-profit supporting children with disabilities and other special needs. Robert’s work has appeared in such publications as The Signal Mountain Review and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Robert also serves as Prose Editor for The Blue Mountain Review. His debut novel, The Cicada Tree, won the Somerset Award for literary fiction.

About Allyson Johnson

Allyson Johnson

Allyson Johnson began her entertainment career in her hometown of Chicago as an Emmy Award–winning child news anchor. A graduate of Brown University, she is a working actress, singer, and audiobook narrator in the New York City metropolitan area.

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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. Whovian, Ravenclaw, Howler and proud Nonna. She owns and manages Caffeinated PR. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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10 Responses to “The Cicada Tree by Robert Gwaltney”

  1. Katherine

    I haven’t heard of this one but I love the sound of the story and the setting. I really love magical realism so this looks like one I need to add to my list.

  2. ER LeVar

    This is absolutely the perfect book for my mother, and I’ve been on the lookout for what to get her for her birthday! Perfect!