Joellen Cook’s first book is a series of short stories inspired by her life in South Carolina. Natural southern traits combined with life experiences are shared in "Sardines, Cheese and Soda Crackers: Reflections From a Country Girl."
The book includes memories from Cook’s childhood and trails through present events. There are humorous stories, such as childhood anecdotes and finding the right fit for her coffin by laying in them. She also shares more serious accounts with the deaths of family members, and reveals the sexual abuse she endured as a young girl, which she does not share with her own mother until 42 years later. Through it all, there is a sense of determination, with a lesson learned from each experience.
Faith is an important aspect of Cook’s life. She mentions events that cannot be explained, such as Christmas lights blinking by themselves and a red tulip appearing in a garden of daffodils, both of which Cook sees as signs from her late husband and child.
Cook’s short stories are poignant reflections, but her repetitive writing style occasionally takes away from this effect. The book is not meant to be read consecutively; each story stands on its own. The characters are referenced and reintroduced in every narrative. The repetition is best seen through "Cornbread Conversations" and "Cornbread at the Tranthams," which half of the text is seen in the other.
The informal tone and direct addressing of the reader gives the short stories their light-hearted style. Cook’s book reads like the "Chicken Soup" series, each story having a lesson and the intent to inspire the reader. She believes "we all are on life journeys and have many opportunities to succeed if we take advantage of themâ€¦regardless of the odds or the circumstances."