Author creates powerful father/son ties in novel

No Original CaptionBy Leslie Criss

Daily Journal

A month or so ago when I was home recuperating from surgery, I picked up a book I’d been waiting to read.

The book, “Shaking the Sugar Tree,” is written by Nick Wilgus, who for a time was part of the Journal Inc. family.

Wilgus is no novice when it comes to writing. He’s written and published numerous novels and a screenplay; in 2012 he received a Best Screenplay nomination by the Thai Film Association; and he’s been an award-winning general interest newspaper columnist.

With all that he’s written, I must confess: “Shaking the Sugar Tree” is my first foray into the words of Wilgus. But it likely will not be my last.

Clearly, the author has a flair for storytelling. He also possesses an ability to weave words together in a way that makes his work not only readable and interesting, but also powerful.

I can’t say this about all authors whom I’ve read, but Wilgus has an amazing ability to write life into his characters. I immediately felt a connection with most, if not all of them. I cared about them, and I thought about them long after I’d finished the book.

Wiley Cantrell is a struggling writer who barely makes ends meet by working at a local grocery store. He’s also the single father of a deaf son. Wiley also happens to be gay, a small but important part of his humanity.

And though it ought not matter, it does – to those whose love surely should be unconditional – his mother, brother, grandfather and other family members.

But the familial ties are not muddled in stagnancy. The relationships between Wiley and his mother and Wiley and his brother change like a chameleon’s colors. There’s anger and an inability to fully accept Wiley as he is, but through the course of the novel, hearts are changed and misunderstanding morphs into real attempts to understand. As real life ought to be, love trumps all.

The relationship Wilgus has created between Wiley and 9-year-old Noah is one of the most dynamic, deeply loving and honest father/son connections about which I’ve ever read. It’s also filled with laughter.

Without giving all away, “Shaking the Sugar Tree” is ultimately about acceptance and grace and redemption.

Though some may disagree, I would not call Wilgus’ book a gay book. It’s a book about people. And it’s a novel worth reading.



Title: “Shaking the Sugar Tree”

Author: Nick Wilgus

Publishers: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 284

Price: $17.99

Click video to hear audio