Nicole Seitz, Author of Southern Fiction
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books - The Spirit of Sweetgrass


Selected as the May 2007 FaithPoint Book-of-the-Month for Books-a-Million

What people are saying

Nicole Seitz joins a long line of distinguished novelists who celebrate the rich culture of the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Like most of us from around here, she grew up watching the sweetgrass basket weavers who ply their ancient craft from Beaufort all the way up to Georgetown. She joins Josephine Humphreys, Anne Rivers Siddons, Sue Monk Kidd, and Dorothea Benton Frank in her fascination with the Gullah culture. Her character, Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins, is worth the price of admission to The Spirit of Sweetgrass.

— Pat Conroy, Best-selling Author of The Prince of Tides, The Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini, The Water is Wide, Beach Music, The Boo and My Losing Season

Essie Mae Jenkins will capture your heart! Seitz delivers a warm and thoughtful rendering of one Gullah woman's plight to protect her rich and endangered way of life. A lovely debut!

— Beth Webb Hart, Author of Adelaide Piper and Grace at Low Tide

The Spirit of Sweetgrass swept me away! The story is timeless; the characters irresistible. Protagonist Essie Mae’s lyrical-miracle-magical journey to the heart of all that matters—family, freedom, faith, and forgiveness—will warm your heart like sun on sand and show you the path to a better way home.

— J. L. Miles, Author of Cold Rock River and Roseflower Creek

Nicole Seitz has created a nostalgic tale woven around traditions of the South, and narrated with an authentic southern voice that adds charm to scenes and characters, reflecting unique qualities of Lowcountry life.

— Michelle Buckman, Author of A Piece of the Sky

Nicole Seitz explores the spirit of sweetgrass through the spirit of her remarkable basket weaving narrator, Essie Mae. Together, they weave the story of Essie Mae's family and friends into something strong, beautiful—and inspiring.

— Michael Conner, Nebula Award-winner and Author of Archangel

Reviews and Buzz

From Publishers Weekly
In an enjoyable debut novel, Seitz offers an interesting first-person narrative about the life (and seemingly, the afterlife) of an elderly Gullah-Creole basket weaver. By the side of Highway 17 in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina sits 78-year-old Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins, crafting baskets of sweetgrass and talking to her dead husband Daddy Jim. Relations are strained with her daughter Henrietta, who thinks Essie belongs in a retirement center. If Essie can't pay $10,000 in back taxes to save her home, she may have no choice. More tensions: her grandson EJ wants to marry a white girl, Essie discovers that a handsome man she's trying to find a girl for is gay, and her daughter carries a hidden secret. When Essie hopes she'll die and go to heaven, the book shifts less successfully to the afterlife, where her Gullah-Creole ancestors surround her and she's reunited with Daddy Jim. Together, they team up to return to Earth and battle two spirits conjured up by Henrietta's voodoo that threatens to ruin an attempt to save the sweetgrass basket weaving culture. Although uneven after a strong start, the first-person narrative in heavy dialect is engaging and readers will enjoy the bits of Gullah culture and history salted throughout. (Feb. 20)

— Publishers Weekly

From Blogcritics Magazine
Literary Fiction
The Spirit of Sweetgrass by Nicole Seitz. Reminiscent of Eudora Welty’s voice and characterization in The Worn Path, and Why I live at the P.O., Seitz’s first novel, The Spirit of Sweetgrass, is delightful.
Thomas Nelson, 2007.

— By Vicki McCollum, Blogcritics Magazine

From Aspiring Retail
The writing is superb, the tone humorous and compassionate, and her characters—particulaly Essie Mae—delightful.

— Aspiring Retail

From Faithful Reader
Not all writers can handle regional dialect well, but Seitz does an exceptional job here. Although the dialect is heavy, it reads smoothly and enhances rather than detracts from the narrative...Seitz’s imaginative story is an absorbing and even educational introduction to the Gullah-Creole way of life. Readers will hope to hear more from this promising novelist.

— Reviewed by Cindy Crosby, (Read full review)

From Newnan Coweta Magazine
On the first page of The Spirit of Sweetgrass, author Nicole Seitz kills her main character. Well, that’s almost what happens. Essie Mae Jenkins predicts her death. She doesn’t know how it is going to happen, she just knows it will — and soon.

The first lines of the novel say, “This is what I remember about that night —my last night alive. After having me a fine meal of crispy cornbread and dipping it in buttermilk just like Daddy used to do, I headed on back to the bathroom. I turned on the water in the tub, not too hot, but good enough to get my blood moving. I wanted to feel the life tingling through my veins.

“For being 78 years old, I can’t say as I ever felt more alive than I did that very night. It’s a funny thing knowing you gonna die soon.” Honestly, Essie Mae wants to die. She’s not suicidal, she just wants to see her beloved husband Daddy Jim again. Jim died years ago, but he comes to visit and talk to Essie Mae while she weaves and sells her sweetgrass baskets by the highway. Daddy Jim has seen and learned a lot about heaven and has promised her when she gets there, she can meet Jesus.

Besides, it’s not like things on earth are that great. Tax collectors claim Essie Mae hasn’t paid taxes on her house in years and owes $10,000. Her daughter Henrietta wants to put Essie Mae in a nursing home, but Essie Mae and Henrietta have been quarreling since Henrietta’s childhood, so that’s nothing new. Plus, developers want to sell the land near the highway where Essie Mae and her friends sell their baskets, so there goes her livelihood.

If it weren’t for her darling grandson EJ and her newly discovered talents at matchmaking, Essie Mae probably would have died sooner. But while heaven is wonderful and all Essie Mae could hope for, things on earth are still worrisome. And try as she might, Essie Mae can’t turn her back on her family, her friends, or even her sweetgrass baskets.

In the end, her sweetgrass and her faith are what heal Essie Mae — on earth and in heaven. Which brings us to the book’s last lines, “Let me tell you, sweet-grass don’t lie. It’s the realest and mosthones’ thing I know. “Ain’t that right, Jim?”

— Reviewed by Holly Jones

5-Stars from Harriet Klausner!
This deep character study will provide inspiration to readers as Essie Mae deals with mortality, deaths of loved ones, sacrifice, the radical changing of her world, and coming to heaven. [Seitz] keeps the story line flowing on earth and in heaven as fans will be fascinated with how the sweetgrass basket weaver puts love into her work...this is a magnificent profound look at a person who has an inner strength few contain.

Harriet Klausner (Read full review on

From e-cast
There's already a buzz about brand new author Nicole A. Seitz. A South Carolina Lowcountry native, humor and authenticity abound in her writing. Join Essie Mae as she sits beside the highway weaving and selling sweetgrass baskets and talking to her long-dead husband in his pink plastic chair. Her down-home charm and unique take on life will have you laughing and crying through her exploits at prayer-filled matchmaking, saving her home from commercial development, and managing an "uppity" daughter who's determined to run what remains of Essie Mae's life.

4-Stars from Romantic Times BookReviews Magazine
In this well-written story about a basket weaver, her Gullah ancestors and her family, Seitz shows readers her love for South Carolina. The author's work is an entertaining feast of culture, with vivid imagery and a strong voice.

— Reviewed by Bev Huston, Romantic Times BookReviews Magazine (Read full review)

From Armchair Interviews
Steeped in traditions of the Gullah people, Nicole Seitz gives readers a rich character in Essie Mae and much local flavor. Her depiction of heaven and the afterlife is heartwarming and unique. Armchair Interviews says: A well-written inspirational read.

— Reviwed by Eileen Key, Armchair Interviews (Read full review)

Written in first person using the voice of Essie Mae, THE SPIRIT OF SWEETGRASS by new author Nicole Seitz is a unique novel that grabbed the attention of this reviewer literally from page one. A well told and intriguing storyline will give readers a glimpse into heaven Essie Mae-style, and the use of Gullah language adds authenticity to the book. Essie Mae quickly became endeared to my heart as I was reading, and I hope to meet her and Daddy Jim in heaven some day. I look forward to reading many more novels by this fascinating and excellent debut author.

— Reviewed by Sherri Myers, (Read full review)

From Author's Choice Reviews
Laced with cultural and historic information, THE SPIRIT OF SWEETGRASS is a fiction novel that touches generations and brings consideration to afterlife...the story line of THE SPIRIT OF SWEETGRASS is one of encouragement and perspective. Essie Mae’s character is well-rounded, dialogue intriguing, and life lessons inspiring...A quick, enjoyable read, THE SPIRIT OF SWEETGRASS would make a good conversation starter or group discussion book.

— Reviewed by Kay Tira, Author's Choice Reviews (Read full review)

From Novel Reviews
THE SPIRIT OF SWEETGRASS is a beautiful tribute to southern traditions and lifestyle as well as a disappearing art. The history and Gullah details Seitz incorporates in the story make it a must read for anyone fascinated with Lowcountry culture.

Nicole Seitz writes beautifully, weaving and crafting this saga not unlike the baskets so diligently and painstakingly woven by her protagonist's loving fingers...If you love to ask God questions and like to ponder heaven, or if you curl up with lazy, literary fiction, quirky characters, cultural details and stories that wrap around your thoughts and your heart, I think you'll enjoy THE SPIRIT OF SWEETGRASS.

— Reviewed by Kelly Klepfer, Novel Reviews (Read full review)

From CB Reviews
I really enjoyed reading THE SPIRIT OF SWEETGRASS by new novelist Nicole Seitz. Ms. Seitz is a very talented author and I’m looking forward to reading more of her works. Written in first person, I feel I got to know Essie Mae well, and I came to care deeply for her.

The faith message is expertly woven in, and is not preachy. The story is told like Miss Essie is sitting right beside you the telling the story (I could almost smell the sweetgrass and see her weaving baskets)...I highly recommend THE SPIRIT OF SWEETGRASS as a southern fiction novel you won’t want to miss.

— Reviewed by Laura V. Hilton, (Read full review)

From The Romance Readers Connection
THE SPIRIT OF SWEETGRASS is Nicole Seitz’ debut novel and she now has a fan for life in me. I found this book to be fresh, original, funny and heartwarming. It brought me through a lot of different emotions but left me smiling and satisfied. The story is told through Essie Mae’s eyes and Ms. Seitz stays true to her nature and character throughout, but also allows room for growth and enlightenment. The richness of the Gullah/Geechee history and traditions were highlighted but not over done. What I read encouraged me to learn more about the culture brought by West Africans to the east coast (an area stretching from Jacksonville, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida) during the slave trade, but didn’t overwhelm me in too much detail or hard to understand dialogue. I cannot wait to see what Ms. Seitz delivers next!

— Reviewed by Elissa Kyle, (Read full review)

From The Road to Romance
Seventy-seven year old Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins makes sweetgrass baskets on the side of Highway 17. She constantly talks to her deceased husband, Daddy Jim. She starts making what she calls love baskets. She takes a piece of hair from each person in the couple she wants to make and places in the bottom of the basket as she starts the weave. She has next to no relationship with her daughter, Henrietta, but has a wonderful one with Retta’s son EJ. Nearing her seventy-eighth birthday, and getting ready to lose her home due to owing years of back taxes, Essie doesn’t worry but just takes it a day at a time.

Essie is on her way to be with the Lord and even gets to the pearly gates and sees her loved ones. When she realizes her passing has caused problems in the family left behind that only she can correct.

This book truly put you in the setting. You felt as if you could smell the sweetgrass as Essie was making the baskets. It also impressed that important message that none of us know when our time is and we should make sure we are right not only with the Lord but our families.

— Reviewed by Kristy Pelletier, The Road to Romance

From Barbara Warren
Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins is my kind of woman. She knows her mind and she's not afraid to speak it. Her husband, Daddy Jim, is dead, but he still shows up every day to sit with her in the stand where she makes and sells her sweetgrass baskets. And no, he's not a `haint, but every day he sits in the pink plastic chair she pulls out for him and they talk about the things bothering Essie.

Like her daughter, Henrietta, who is thinking about of putting Essie Mae in Sunnydale Farm, a nursing home, just because she hasn't paid her taxes for several years and her house is going to be sold on the courthouse steps. After all, she only owes $10,000.00. No reason at all to move a God-fearing woman out of the home where she raised her children, and loved them all, including Henrietta, although she's acting downright mean now. Besides, Jim says he's not going to Sunnydale with her, and she isn't ready to give him up.

Nicole Seitz has captured Miss Essie so completely the reader knows her immediately from page one. She is honest, outspoken, and loving. The Spirit of Sweetgrass is as warm and comforting as Miss Essie's light bread rolls served up in a newly woven sweetgrass basket. This one's a keeper.



Copyright © 2007 Nicole Seitz. All rights reserved.
The Spirit of Sweetgrass Trouble the Water, coming February 2008!