Cold Sassy was a small town whose inhabitants were just beginning to discover technology. A short while before the story takes place, Cold Sassy had just gotten electricity, indoor plumbing, and indoor privies. However, not every one in Cold Sassy thought this was as such a marvel. Rucker Blakeslee for instance, was an old fashioned (and frugal) man who did not care if the rest of the world had anything, he did not need it. While the rest of the town had decided to become more modern, and "get with it", Mr. Blakeslee and his wife, Miss Matie Lou, still used candles to light their way every night, buckets of water instead of plumbing, and went outside to use their privy.
Three weeks after Miss Matie Lou died (and while the family was still in mourning), Mr. Blakeslee got married to Miss Love Simpson who had been the milliner in that town for two years in Mr.
Blakeslee's store, and was the age of his daughters. The hats that Miss Love made symbolize people and how they either like to express, or cover up their feelings. There are many styles of hats, and there are many types of moods that people could bein. Mr. Blakeslee's excuse for getting married so soon, was that he needed a housekeeper, and Miss Matie Lou was "as dead as she'll ever be", so it was alright to get remarried so soon. It was shocking for the town of Cold Sassy to hear such nonsense, and since it was such a small town, news sure did travel fast. From then on, people would look down on Miss Love, they said that Mr. Blakeslee was just a poor widower, but Miss Love had no excuse and should have said no. So, they decided to outcast her from their society.
Mr. Blakeslee had two daughters who both got married and had at least one child each. Will Tweedy was Mr. Blakeslees' oldest grandson, and the closest thing to a biological son that he had. Since Will was the oldest of his grandchildren, he had more obligations to his family and himself, but when his grandfather got remarried three weeks after his wife died, he got pulled in two different directions. Will's mother, Mary Willis (Mr. Blakeslee's oldest daughter), got very angry with her father, and told Will that he did not need to do anything for Miss Love, they did not owe her anything, so he should not help her out with cleaning or anything that she needed to do. Since Mr. Blakeslee insisted that Will help out Miss Love in any way that she needed helping, and since he was older than Mary Willis, so he had more authority, Will had to help her. Will was around his grandfather and his new bride so much, that he often times caught himself listening in on their conversations and hearing things that he should not have heard. This was a way to overcome the disadvantages of writing in first person.
Eventually, Miss Love got very angry with all of the gossip that people were saying about her, so Mr. Blakeslee decided to take her on a trip to New York City. While they were there, Miss Love convinced Mr. Blakeslee to go on his first ride in an automobile. He enjoyed it so much, that he bought his own automobile dealership for Cold Sassy, and even tried to learn how to drive one, but was not successful in driving (since he only had one arm, it made it kind of hard to drive). In a way, automobiles of those days symbolize life. First you have buy the car, which is like birth. Then, you have to learn how to drive it and overcome the many obstacles on the road, which is like growing up. Finally, you wear out the car, and have to either give it away for parts, or just throw it away and get a new one, which is like death.
Cold Sassy Tree is a book about coming of age. How one boy, Will Tweedy, deals with the deaths of people whom are very close to him. It is also about how he deals with "puppy" love and jealousy. All of the things that a young boy in the early 1900's and in the south would have to deal with, plus a little extra spice that Olive Ann Burns adds to make the story a little bit more interesting and exciting.