By: Donna Everhart
Publication Date: 12/26/2017
My Rating: 4 Stars
Donna Everhart takes readers to Stampers Creek, 1940 North Carolina along the Tuckasegee River with the Stampers family. THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET —a gritty Southern tale of despair, family, and hope. A perfect and fitting title for this coming-of-age journey through life's ups and downs from childhood to womanhood.
"It takes courage to find your way."
In the Appalachian mountains, near Cashiers, NC, we meet Wallis Ann. Fourteen-years-old and wise beyond her years. She takes most of the burden caring for her sister, Laci. Her sister is two years older, yet she will never be able to read or write or solve problems. They all wondered what she must be thinking. There was also the younger brother, Seph; only three-years-old.
Laci is "savant." Gifted. A person affected with a mental disability (such as autism or mental retardation) who exhibits exceptional skill or brilliance in some limited field (such as mathematics or music).In this case, music. The family played music, known as The Stamper Family. From the piano, banjo, fiddle, among others.
There is a devastating flood after the waters broke over the dam. The worst this area had ever seen. Torrential rains. This event scared Wallis more than anything she had ever experienced. They are swept away by the strong currents.
After losing everything, the Papa takes them to his brother, Hardy in South Carolina. They are on the road trying to survive by singing for money to have enough to eat.
The momma depended on Wallis Ann for so much of Laci's care, and Laci experienced guilt from some of the events happening in the story. Wallis Ann feels somewhat invisible at times due to her sister's disability.
Along the way, there are more struggles, and challenges striving for survival amid life's storms. Burdens to carry. Hearts broken. Dreams unfulfilled. Guilt-ridden. Betrayal.
Heartstrings are pulled especially with Wallis Ann. She is brave, and resilient while suffering from hardships, hopelessness, and other situations and emotions she encounters. Deeply emotional a mix of Southern fiction/Gothic, coming-of-age, historical, and literary fiction.
“Windows give you a view. Otherwise you can't see nothing, no matter how hard you try. It ain't much different in how we look at our world from inside ourselves."
I enjoyed the theme of water which is apparent throughout the novel from the river, the flood, the waterfalls and symbolic in many ways to the peaceful trickle of water sliding over the rocks. On a side note: My favorite places in the NC mountains are the Highlands and Cashiers. Beautiful waterfalls and scenic mountains. I miss my log cabin in Big Canoe, GA.
The characters are well-drawn (as the secondary ones) and the times researched, drawing you into their world of survival and vivid settings.
"We're going to keep on having hope until there's no possibility of having it anymore. That's all we can do."
Descriptive storytelling, a well-written emotional Southern coming-of-age novel of family, heartbreak, love, loss, and acceptance.
For fans of Southern historical fiction and authors: Leah Weiss, Kim Michele Richardson, Wiley Cash, Emilie Richards, Diane Chamberlain, and David Joy.
A special thank you to Kensington for an advanced reading copy and the introduction to this talented North Carolina author. Look forward to reading more.
About the Author
Donna Everhart is a USA Today bestselling author of THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE, an Amazon Best Book/Debut Spotlight, Indie Next Pick for November 2016 and longlisted for the Southern Book Prize,
(formerly the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize)
Her next novel, THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET, January 2018, is a Publisher’s Lunch Buzz Book for Fall/Winter 2017-2018 and a 2018 Southern
Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Trio pick.
Born in Raleigh, North Carolina, she has lived close to her hometown for most of her life. For several years she worked for high tech companies, specializing in project management and product introduction. She carries a Bachelor of Science in Business Management. She lives in Dunn, North Carolina with her husband, Blaine,
and a tiny, heart-stealing Yorkshire terrier, named Mister.
She is a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, and Women’s
Fiction Writers Association. Read More