“Not knowing something doesn’t mean you’re stupid. All it means is that there’s still room left to wonder.”
Twelve-year-old Heidi doesn’t know her extended family. She doesn’t even know her mother’s name or anything about her background. Her mentally disabled mother depends on a neighbor, and it has been this way since Heidi was an infant. The neighbor, Bernadette, is agoraphobic. When Heidi discovers some undeveloped film, she follows the clues left in the photos. She is determined to travel across the country to find out where she came from and the identity of her mother, who calls herself So B. It.
This is a beautiful story. I’m not really sure how I missed this one. This book is suitable for ages ten and up, but I found it to be very enjoyable.
Heart tugging. Fantastic characters. The mystery of how Heidi and her mother came to be in this apartment alone kept me turning pages. Such a brave little girl. I was rooting for her all the way.
This book is been made into a movie and now I want to check it out.
If you haven’t read this one, you should put it on your list. Another great read.
~Summerlost by Ally Condie~ “Why does the end always have to be what people talk about?”
“I have been in the presence of a lot of greatness. And people I love who loved me back. It might be the same thing.”
After a tragic accident takes the lives of Cedar’s father and younger brother, Ben, Cedar comes to spend the summer in Iron Creek and gets her first job at the Summerlost Theater. She and her new found friend, Leo, are determined to unravel the mystery of the festival’s most famous actress who died years ago. Items appear on Cedar’s window sill, items like the things her brother, Ben, would collect and Cedar tries to puzzle out who left them there.
Sweet, coming-of-age novel. I absolutely adore the main character, Cedar, and her vulnerability and honesty about her feelings for her brother.
This is a novel about Cedar’s coming to terms with losing her father and brother. Her grief, her experience.
It has a lovely summery feel to it, that fleeting warmth and sweetness of twelve-year-old summer, the time in between childhood and adolescence where things are bright and raw. Cedar’s summer is tinged with grief and memories.
This is a story of friendship between a boy and a girl. I like that it wasn’t necessary to have the friendship cluttered by romance. I love the message that it is perfectly acceptable to have a friend of the opposite sex, especially at this age. I remember the looks and raised eyebrows from the adults in my life when I was twelve and my best friend was a boy. Sometimes it’s about friendship, not kisses.
Sensitively done. Beautiful work. Moving.
In the author’s notes she mentions the neurodiverse community. I like that.
“Readers will find The Road to Bittersweet to be a lovingly crafted coming-of-age novel set in the unforgiving Carolina hills. Everhart understands the mindset of a young girl on the cusp of womanhood as her world fills with hardship, betrayal, and the wonderment of growing up. Readers will be struck by how beautifully Everhart captures the dialect of her well-drawn characters and the landscape – both harsh and beautiful. Here is a story that tugs at the heartstrings with its believability and evocative prose, leaving readers believing there is always hope when a family stands together.”- RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
“Everhart (The Education ofDixie Dupree, 2016) is a good storyteller and makes her characters and their experiences come alive.” Booklist
I loved this book! I won a signed copy of Donna Everhart’s The Road to Bittersweet from the facebook group A Novel Bee, no strings attached. I enjoyed this novel so much, I asked Donna if she would come and chat with us a bit.
If you like coming of age stories with a strong voice, you should check out Donna’s work. I think The Road to Bittersweet is a great selection for book clubs.
~ GIVE AWAY ~ GIVE AWAY ~ GIVE AWAY! ~
I thought you guys might like this book, so I decided to GIVE AWAY a kindle copy. Details below.
Listen to The Pretty One by Pam Tillis, written about the book, The Road to Bittersweet.
As a reader, I seem to be drawn to historical settings. The Road to Bittersweet is set in the 1940s. Have you always been interested in that particular time in history?
Not so much 1940 in of itself, but really anything from the 70s or earlier. For instance, all of my books take place in the 40s, 50s or 60s. I like writing about those times because while there were complex issues going on relative to what might have been in the news, lifestyles were much simpler than today. For example, there were two, maybe three channels on TV to watch, and TV was the only medium – compared to the hundreds of channels today, plus we have all of these various devices on which we can watch those hundreds of shows. Here’s another one – Oreos. It’s a strange example, but an Oreo cookie used to be this one type of cookie, dark chocolate wafer with a cream filling. Then came Double Stuff. Then came vanilla wafers. Then mint flavored filling. Then colors for holidays. Just the other day I saw . . . Cherry Cola flavored. I bet there might be fifteen varieties of the Oreo cookie now. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
I love Wallis Ann’s resilience and grit. Where did you find the inspiration for her character?
Partly it came from books I’ve read where hardship was overcome through sheer will and determination. For instance, some of my favorite characters who are similar to Wallis Ann would be Julie Harmon from Robert Morgan’s GAP CREEK, or Ruby and Ada in Charles Frazier’s COLD MOUNTAIN. They were confronted by what seem like impossible situations, yet managed to overcome it by working hard, and keeping an attitude of persistence. So, Wallis Ann certainly came from the influence of those stories, plus my own desire to create characters people can relate to and admire for their endurance and fortitude. I would also say there’s a bit of me in these characters I write about, because I’m always thinking, how would I react? What would I do? Would I do this – or not? Etc. etc. Also, there is nothing better, in my opinion, than to have readers come away from a story feeling wrung out, yet happy with how it all turned out.
When you were researching for this book, what historical tidbit or event did you find most interesting?
Some years ago my husband and I hiked to a historic cabin in Doughton Park, NC off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The structure survived the 1916 Basin Cove flood, and this cabin was the impetus for the story. The family that lived there consisted of eight people, two adults and six children, and it was fascinating to know how they lived and thrived there before the flood. It was a very rustic cabin, no bigger than about three hundred square feet. The closest town was eight miles away. They were true survivalists, killing for meat, growing vegetables and fruit trees, hauling water, chopping wood, preserving foods, sewing their own clothes, milking cows, and on and on. Their job was never-ending, but they were used to that hardscrabble life. And yet, I could see how a flood would be an incentive to leave because all they’d worked for would be gone. How would they expect to get back to where they’d been? What if they’d stayed? Could they have recovered? It was interesting to explore these questions.
What life lesson did you learn while writing your novel?
I had no idea where this story was headed at times, or what I was doing, but I kept at it, persevering like Wallis Ann. In a nutshell, perseverance is a wonderful thing – as long as you know when to try a different approach if something isn’t working and don’t beat yourself up over it if the goal you intended to reach shifts – or changes altogether.
What are you working on now?
Well, my third book is done. It’s a story that takes place in 1955, on a cotton farm in Jones County, NC. All of my books are coming of age stories, and my main character in this one is a twelve year old girl named Sonny Creech, a girl who loves cotton farming, her family’s land, and knows how to divine water. After a tragedy, she and her family become entangled with a reclusive, bigoted neighbor. I’m really excited about that story. It’s in the production phase, meaning I’ve already been through the copy editing part. I’ll soon receive page proofs, the final step before it goes to print. The title is THE FORGIVING KIND and it’ll be out in February of 2019.
My newest project is in the really (I mean REALLY) ugly first draft stage. This story’s main character is sixteen year old Jessie Sasser and she’s quite unhappy with her lot in life. Born into a family legacy of moonshining, she wants no part of it because she’s certain this is what killed her mother. So far, I’m having fun with it, while trying not to pull my hair out.
Donna Everhart is a USA Today bestselling author who writes stories of family hardship and troubled times in a bygone south. A native of North Carolina, she resides in her home state with her husband and their tiny heart stealing Yorkshire terrier, Mister. Readers can visit her at www.donnaeverhart.com.
Thank you for visiting with us, Donna! I can’t wait to read The Forgiving Kind.
Giveaway Time! I am giving away one kindle copy of The Road to Bittersweet. Click here to go to the entry form or enter below.
“It happens the world over – we love ourselves more than we do the one we say we love. We all want to be Number One, we’ve got to be Number One or nothing! We can’t see that we could make ourselves loved and needed in the Number Two, or Three, or Four spot. No sir, we’ve got to be Number One, and if we can’t make it, we’ll rip and tear at the loved one till we’ve ruined every smidgin of love that was ever there.”
Newberry Award Winner Up A Road Slowly by Irene Hunt is a coming of age story. Julie is seven years old when her mother dies and she is sent to live with her maiden Aunt Cordelia in the country. The story is told by Julie in first person, and follows her life until graduation from high school. Aunt Cordelia is kind but strict.
Up A Road Slowly has been compared to Anne of Green Gables and it does have a similar tone. Julie has a love of literature, a touch of dramatic attitude, and a fondness for quoting poetry, but her struggles are different from Anne’s as is her situation. The story is a journey of self-discovery that starts with a moment of tragedy. Julie does have moments of wit, but in general I would say this is a more serious book than Anne of Green Gables.
Up A Road Slowly was published in 1967 but the feel is somehow old fashioned, perhaps because the setting of Julie’s upbringing is the country rather than town. Julie’s overly dramatic teenage angst played out quite authentically.
I do not remember reading this when I was a teen or preteen, but would recommend it to any girl who liked Anne of Green Gables. I liked it enough to pass on a copy to my teen daughter.
Issues of Concern (contains spoilers)
Julie is unkind to a cognitively delayed girl, Aggie. Julie later comes to regret her treatment of Aggie. While the attitude of Julie is rather self-centered, this story is told from the point of view of a teen and through a conversation with Uncle Haskell who we already know is not the best role model. When reading this book, this may be something to point out to young readers and follow with discussion about the attitudes and statements of the characters regarding Aggie. There is use of the ‘r’ word as description of Aggie book as was typical in this time period.
Uncle Haskell is an alcoholic who doesn’t work or contribute to the family but has his moments of redeeming behavior.
There is insinuation of a classmate’s unwed pregnancy.
Aunt Cordelia tells Julie that loving someone more than yourself produces maturity and understanding of what love truly means, a message that a woman needs to love a man to complete her. I feel this may need explanation to young readers, extending the topic to discuss how giving of oneself does, in fact, bring maturity and purpose.
This book reflects the values and beliefs of the time before the 1960s. I was not turned off by these instances but felt they accurately reflect this period of history.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Jaselyn Blanchard. The recording was well done as was the reading and performance.