Carrie Nyman’s debut novel Why Aren’t You Sweet Like Me? is historical fiction based on letters her grandmother, Honey, received from her husband, Don Shepard, prior to and during World War II. I enjoy historical fiction, especially that surrounding WWII, and I downloaded a copy of Nyman’s first novel over Memorial Day weekend in 2012. Her publisher was doing a promotion and the book was free that week, so I figured, “Why not?” Honestly, I was not expecting much. I have read many novels by first-time “authors” and if I had to pay for the book, I would not have read it. But it was free, so what did I have to lose?
I was shocked. From page one of Nyman’s novel, I was hooked and found myself unable to put the book down until the last page. I finished this book at two in the morning when I had to leave at 4 a.m. to move cross-country (so worth it)! Her ability to convey real human emotion is amazing and inspiring. I have carried on conversations with people who did not have as much tangible emotion as Nyman’s characters, Honey and Don. It was incredible.
In the beginning, I was not a fan of Don Shepard. He was cold, manipulative and, at some points, he even seemed mentally ill. Many times, I found myself questioning his love for Honey while other times, it was clear that the sun rose and set on Honey. I kept thinking that Honey really should have gotten her act together and left his manipulative butt behind. Yes, Don could be a jerk, but toward the end of the novel, he redeems himself in a totally expected yet unexpected way. I did not see the event on the horizon, but when it happened, I was not all that shocked. It did cause me to see Don Shepard in a new light and not just for the snot he could be.
Honey, Nyman’s grandmother, was an amazing voice throughout the novel. She came across as a woman ahead of her time. She did not want to get married immediately after high school. Instead, she went on to college in Saint Louis and became a medical technician. She wanted to be an independent woman and in the 1940s, that was going against the grain. Hearing the story told from the point of view of such a strong woman made the pain so much more real and intense during the story’s climactic ending. The emotion that Nyman conveys for Honey is intense and so real that I found myself going through the same emotions as Honey. Denial, shock, and rage filled my mind as I, too, wondered if there had been a mistake. The ability Nyman has that allowed me to relate to Honey’s emotions was mind-blowing, never before have I felt a character’s joy and pain so acutely in a novel.
The story Nyman has created from her grandmother’s letters deserves five stars. However, I have read many books and I can be a stickler. I found some descriptions of places and things to be a bit wordy. There was one point where the retelling where things were located on Honey’s farm where I had to skip the somewhat painfully drawn out text. Nyman’s description of Saint Louis, however, was fantastic (but I am biased as Saint Louis is my hometown). Overall, I give the book 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Nyman has a gift that is rare to find in a new author. Her writing is emotional, three-dimensional, and human. I imagine there will be many more fantastic novels from Nyman in the future and the reading world will see great things from her.
If you are interested in downloading a copy of Nyman’s novel, if can be found on Amazon.com for $4.99.