Donna Everhart makes her first appearance on the blog today with a new Southern Fiction title, a historic coming of age story that combines family saga, a unique narrative voice and plenty of angst to keep you reading on. Please read on for my review of
The Road to Bittersweet
Wallis Ann is fourteen years old as the book opens on her birthday: the middle child of a family of five living in the mountains and eking out an existence with a horse and mule, a small cabin and plenty of love. Her birthday begins like most other days – but heavy rains have everyone on edge as the creek and rivers are rising – and the fear of flooding is still apparent. Her family, the Stampers, have managed to gain some notoriety for their singing and performing, with her mute sister Laci accompanying them most often on fiddle, although able to play nearly any instrument by ear.
While it would be easy to call this a coming of age story from a young girl in the 1940’s Appalachia, it is so much more. Her connection to her family and the ever-present Laci – mute from birth but blessed with a musical talent that both amazes and delights all – Wallis Ann is a determined, brave, and curious child – willing herself to move forward each day as she (and later she and her family) try to survive and rebuild their lives after the flood. Guilty from the loss of her young brother, and often asked to be more adult and caretaker of her elder sister, Wallis is torn. On one hand, she wants to make her parents proud and see evidence of their love for her, she’s also caught in her own head as she resents Laci always being thrust upon her, becoming invisible to everyone when Laci arrives. She is, however, the only person in the family who believes that Laci both understands and sees the world around them, despite her parents’ belief that she is little more than an innocent.
Everhart has made a compelling story of a young girl’s struggle to find herself, her identity and her own path after tragedy and struggle to survival pushes her family to the edge. What surprised me most about this title is the fact that the dialect, written to emulate how Wallis Ann would have spoken without a nod to conventional and modern grammar did not “feel” forced or frustrating – each moment of beauty, struggle and self-doubt were clearly elucidated and easy to visualize and empathize. While I’m not usually a fan of stories that are written this way, there was a sweetness under laid by a core of steel in Wallis’ tale, and she had me wanting to see her survive and thrive in each new situation. This was wholly different to what I expected, and I am thrilled that I took the time to see the world from a perspective that I’d never before experienced.
Title: The Road to Bittersweet
Author: Donna Everhart
Genre: Family Saga, Historic Woman's Fiction, Southern
Published by: Kensington
Published on: 26 December, 2017
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 45 minutes
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Set in the Carolinas in the 1940s, The Road to Bittersweet is a beautifully written, evocative account of a young woman reckoning not just with the unforgiving landscape, but with the rocky emotional terrain that leads from innocence to wisdom.
For fourteen-year-old Wallis Ann Stamper and her family, life in the Appalachian Mountains is simple and satisfying, though not for the tenderhearted. While her older sister, Laci—a mute, musically gifted savant—is constantly watched over and protected, Wallis Ann is as practical and sturdy as her name. When the Tuckasegee River bursts its banks, forcing them to flee in the middle of the night, those qualities save her life. But though her family is eventually reunited, the tragedy opens Wallis Ann’s eyes to a world beyond the creek that’s borne their name for generations.
Carrying what’s left of their possessions, the Stampers begin another perilous journey from their ruined home to the hill country of South Carolina. Wallis Ann’s blossoming friendship with Clayton, a high diving performer for a traveling show, sparks a new opportunity, and the family joins as a singing group. But Clayton’s attention to Laci drives a wedge between the two sisters. As jealousy and betrayal threaten to accomplish what hardship never could—divide the family for good—Wallis Ann makes a decision that will transform them all in unforeseeable ways…
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.