The Road to Bittersweet by Donna Everhart

The Road to Bittersweet

PUBLISHERS LUNCH BUZZ BOOK, Winter 2017/2018SIBA Trio 2018 SelectionSIBA OKRA PICK Winter 2018First Pick for SOUTHERN LADY Book ClubSet 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...

Title:The Road to Bittersweet
Author:
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Edition Language:English

The Road to Bittersweet Reviews

  • Betty

    After reading

    , I knew I'd be reading Donna Everhart's next novel, but I didn't expect to have the pleasure of reading her second book this year. (I'm an

    fan, so I'm accustomed to waiting four years-ish for a new novel from an author I love.) Needless to say, I was thrilled to see THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET listed on

    , and requested it immediately.

    Set in 1940s Appalachia, THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET is the story of the Stamper family—told from the perspec

    After reading

    , I knew I'd be reading Donna Everhart's next novel, but I didn't expect to have the pleasure of reading her second book this year. (I'm an

    fan, so I'm accustomed to waiting four years-ish for a new novel from an author I love.) Needless to say, I was thrilled to see THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET listed on

    , and requested it immediately.

    Set in 1940s Appalachia, THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET is the story of the Stamper family—told from the perspective of fourteen-year-old Wallis Ann—who live in Stamper's Creek, North Carolina. She—along with her parents, younger brother Seph, and older sister Lacia—is forced to flee the family home when a hurricane strikes, bringing torrential rains that results in the devastating flood of the Tuckasegee river. In the midst of their escape, their truck is swept away by the flood waters. They manage to retreat to the back of the truck, but three family members, including Wallis Ann, go over the side when the truck strikes something in the water.

    The family is eventually reunited, gathering at the place where their home once stood, having lost everything but each other. They set about the business of surviving as best they can with few resources, making do with the little they have, when tragedy strikes a second time. Broken, they abandon their destroyed home and travel from place to place, singing to earn a little money. On the brink of starvation, Wallis Ann meets a young man named Clayton near one of the campsites they frequented as they roamed the area. They quickly became friends, and Wallis Ann has her first taste of young love.

    Thanks to Clayton's suggestion, the family is employed as a singing act for a traveling circus. The Stampers are relieved to finally have a semblance of stability, but Wallis Ann can't help but notice the attention Clayton gives to Laci. Her jealousy sets in motion a chain of events that results in another bout of anguish for the family—one that they may not be able to overcome.

    Everhart has created a beautiful story of struggle and survival against impossible odds. I fell in love with the Stamper family almost immediately. Each member of this family endeared themselves to me, and are very relatable characters. Novels that focus on people (or families) left struggling after a catastrophic event have always appealed to me, and THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET paints a realistic picture of not only that, but of the heavy emotional toll that comes with it. The title itself (which I think is perfect!) hints this will be an often sad story, and it is... but it is not without hope. Even in their darkest days, even if they want to, the Stampers never give up. They keep on, no matter what.

    I loved this story. It put me through the emotional wringer over and over again, with some portions affecting me so greatly I had to set the book aside for a bit in order to process it, and prepare myself to read on. There were things about Laci that I kept wishing to know more about, but that a desire on my part, not something that critically affected the story by its lack. If anything, it's a tribute to how wonderfully written Laci and all the other characters were, that I was left wishing to know more!

    If you enjoy Southern fiction or coming-of-age stories, I highly recommend that this one be added to your list. It's a fabulous book... one I hope others will enjoy as much as I did.

  • Angela M

    You could call this a coming of age novel and I would agree, but it's not a typical coming of age story. You could say that the ending is a little too pat, maybe even a little too predictable and I could agree with that . For me though, the important thing about this story is that I found it to be an excellent work of historical fiction.

    It's 1940 in North Carolina, and the dam of the Tuckasegee river has broken with the torrential rains. Fourteen year old Wallis Ann and her family, her mother a

    You could call this a coming of age novel and I would agree, but it's not a typical coming of age story. You could say that the ending is a little too pat, maybe even a little too predictable and I could agree with that . For me though, the important thing about this story is that I found it to be an excellent work of historical fiction.

    It's 1940 in North Carolina, and the dam of the Tuckasegee river has broken with the torrential rains. Fourteen year old Wallis Ann and her family, her mother and father, her three year old brother Seph and her older sister, Laci, a savant who doesn't speak but plays music from memory and accompanies the family when they perform as a singing group on occasion, make a harrowing escape from the flood. The descriptions of the devastation are fantastic and so realistic as evidenced by the photographs I found online (link is below). I could see Wallis Ann hanging on to a tree limb , desperate to survive, thinking about the rest of her family who were torn from the truck as they attempted to escape. Wallis Ann is smart and tough and manages to stay alive , find her way back to what was left of their home and desperately waits for her family's return. Such a burden on this young girl as she helps her father try to rebuild their home, try to find food to survive, and watch over Laci. Such a heavy burden on a fourteen year old girl, the hard labor, the guilt she carries over her little brother Seph.

    Rebuilding becomes impossible with no tools, and little in the way of food, so they leave and end up as a singing group in a carnival and things get complicated for Wallis Ann and her family and they return home. I don't want to say more about the plot. This is a story of a close family and their hardship and hope as they try to survive the tragic circumstances of loss from the devastation of the flood . Of course I had to do searching to find out more about these floods in NC in 1940 and there was truly devastation and loss as this story reflects . 4 stars and recommended.

    Some photos of the devastation caused by this flood:

    I received an advanced copy of this book from Kensington Books through Edelweiss and NetGalley.

  • Cheri

    !! NOW AVAILABLE !!

    A picture of a casually sweet, demurely seated young girl in a crisp, white sundress adorns the cover, her legs crossed at her ankles, her feet bare and almost tucked into the grass beneath, delicately holding something between her hands which seems to be almost imperceptibly, the bare old wood porch lending an air of hardship to their humble home. Off to the side are the words:

    That certainly holds true in this story.

    The Year is 1940; the

    !! NOW AVAILABLE !!

    A picture of a casually sweet, demurely seated young girl in a crisp, white sundress adorns the cover, her legs crossed at her ankles, her feet bare and almost tucked into the grass beneath, delicately holding something between her hands which seems to be almost imperceptibly, the bare old wood porch lending an air of hardship to their humble home. Off to the side are the words:

    That certainly holds true in this story.

    The Year is 1940; the Stamper family lives in Stampers Creek, their creek off the Tuckasegee River near Cashiers, North Carolina. Wallis Ann is fourteen, two years younger than her sister Laci, who does not speak, has never spoken, but has the ability to play music after hearing it only once or twice, on a variety of instruments: piano, fiddle, banjo, Mountain dulcimer.

    Seph is the youngest at three. As a family, they sometimes perform locally; the girls wearing their feed sack dresses, and sometimes receive tokens of thanks in exchange for the gift they bring to others. A simple life, a life that suits them fairly well.

    And then the rains came.

    Hold back the river, let me look in your eyes

    Hold back the river, so I

    Can stop for a minute and see where you hide

    Hold back the river, hold back.

    --- Songwriters: Iain Archer / James Bay

    They grab what they can, trying to get away in their truck while they still are able. The water keeps rising, and the driving gets more treacherous. Eventually, the waters take control of the car, pushing it along, as Wallis Ann’s family struggle to get to the highest point of the truck, Wallis Ann is swept away, eventually grabbing onto a sturdy enough tree branch, and finds a place to hold onto something solid, unmoving. She holds on long enough to see the waters subside, climbing down to the mucky surface.

    Tried to keep you close to me

    But life got in between

    Tried to square not being there

    But think that I should have been.

    --- Songwriters: Iain Archer / James Bay

    Finding her way back home through sheer determination, a need to reunite with her family, and the kindness of strangers, she heads back to what remains of their home, their barn, and tries to work on, rebuild, what she can.

    Lonely water, lonely water, won't you let us wander

    Let us hold each other

    Lonely water, lonely water, won't you let us wander

    Let us hold each other

    --- Songwriters: Iain Archer / James Bay

    Rebuilding begins to seem like an insurmountable task, even after time passes and her mother and father and sister Laci return, there are no tools, not enough food, and winter is coming on. And so, once more, they are forced to leave their home, this time in the hopes of finding salvation somewhere.

    There is an aspect of this that will be seen primarily as a coming of age story, but in truth Wallis Ann seems as though she was born an adult, and has certainly seems to have carried the weight of an adult in her household. There are some momentary glimpses of her more innocent, youthful side especially when it comes to more adult ways outside her ken, but there is the larger side of her that seems to take on responsibility for things beyond her control.

    I read, and really enjoyed, Donna Everhart’s

    so I was really looking forward to reading her soon-to-be released

    and I was not disappointed. They are very different stories, but this has a strong, young heroine that will surely grab hold of your heart and have you rooting for her to not only find safety, but acceptance and love.

    Pub Date: 26 December 2017

    Many thanks for the ARC provided by Kensington Books

  • Sue

    "...it was like all we'd been doing was traveling down a road towards this bittersweet ending. Nothing could change what we'd been through." These are thoughts from Wallis Ann Stamper, the 14 year old main character in The Road to Bittersweet. And what a road she and her family had been down. Living in a rural area in the Appalachian mountains in 1940 with her parents, sister Lacy and baby brother, they lived a hard scrabble life but always had food on the table and love within the family as wel

    "...it was like all we'd been doing was traveling down a road towards this bittersweet ending. Nothing could change what we'd been through." These are thoughts from Wallis Ann Stamper, the 14 year old main character in The Road to Bittersweet. And what a road she and her family had been down. Living in a rural area in the Appalachian mountains in 1940 with her parents, sister Lacy and baby brother, they lived a hard scrabble life but always had food on the table and love within the family as well as their love of singing. Until the night that the Tuckasegee river overflowed its banks and forced them out of the house that had been in their family for generations. The family's flight during the flood was one of the scariest things that I've read in a long time. Wallis Ann survives the flood and starts looking for her family. Miles away from her home, she learns a lot about herself and the world that she had never been part of. The family gets reunited at the site of their home but they continue to struggle as they try to re-build. As the family tries to survive, they have to leave their mountain home and go out into the world where family loyalties are tested and decisions are made that cause horrible repercussions to them all.

    Wallis Ann is a fantastic main character. She is strong and can work like a man but she still has the feelings of a young girl. We see the land and the family problems through her watchful eyes and we see her change from innocence to wisdom about life and her family. This is a wonderful novel and I think it will be one of the most read books this winter. The is the second fantastic book by this author and if you haven't read her first book The Education of Dixie Dupree, you need to read it too.

    Warning: Be sure to clear your calendar before you start reading The Road to Bittersweet because once you start, you won't want to put it down until you finish. Trust me, there were no meals cooked or cleaning done at my house once I opened this book.

    Thanks to the author for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.

  • Christine Moore

    The Road to Bittersweet is about Wallis Ann Stamper and her family living in the mountains of North Carolina. A flood rolls through the town and they escape their home with the clothes on their backs. It is a beautifully written book about family, love, and hope. The descriptions in the book make you feel like you are part of the story. You can picture everything the author writes. I read this book in one sitting as I couldn't put it down. I loved Wallis and her family. Wallis is 14 and the stro

    The Road to Bittersweet is about Wallis Ann Stamper and her family living in the mountains of North Carolina. A flood rolls through the town and they escape their home with the clothes on their backs. It is a beautifully written book about family, love, and hope. The descriptions in the book make you feel like you are part of the story. You can picture everything the author writes. I read this book in one sitting as I couldn't put it down. I loved Wallis and her family. Wallis is 14 and the strong one of the family. Laci who is 16 is mute but can play any instrument and any song she hears one time. LIttle Seph and all his energy! Their Mom and Dad even after losing their home still have hope. I received an ARC from NetGalley and Kensington Books. All opinions are my own.

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    I enjoyed my time spent with Wallis Ann Stamper and her family. Set in the 1940s in both North and South Carolina, there was a flood in the Stampers’ small mountain community at the start of the book that left me riveted. Wallis Ann went on quite an adventure finding her way home.

    Wallis Ann’s parents reminded me a bit of the Ingalls parents from Little House, through their patience and kindness towards their children. The family has lost every

    I enjoyed my time spent with Wallis Ann Stamper and her family. Set in the 1940s in both North and South Carolina, there was a flood in the Stampers’ small mountain community at the start of the book that left me riveted. Wallis Ann went on quite an adventure finding her way home.

    Wallis Ann’s parents reminded me a bit of the Ingalls parents from Little House, through their patience and kindness towards their children. The family has lost everything from the flood, and their experiences, their hunger, their trials and tribulations, are all authentically depicted. This close-knit family truly tries it all to survive and to thrive.

    I found Wallis Ann’s coming of age to be memorable and heartwarming. This book is highly recommended to fans of southern historical fiction.

    Thank you to Donna Everhart, Kensington Books, and Netgalley, for the opportunity to read and review this special book. The Road to Bittersweet will be published on December 26, 2017.

  • Deborah Blanchard

    "It takes courage to find your way" This is true throughout this book. This story takes place in the 1940's in the Appalachian Mountains. The Stampers live on the river and lead a simple life, until a hurricane destroys their home as the flood waters rise. They are forced to leave. This is their story as told by Wallis Ann, the middle child, age 14. I found this to be a true coming of age novel, filled with feeling and teaming with emotion. Wallis Ann is strong and determined, yet is but a teen

    "It takes courage to find your way" This is true throughout this book. This story takes place in the 1940's in the Appalachian Mountains. The Stampers live on the river and lead a simple life, until a hurricane destroys their home as the flood waters rise. They are forced to leave. This is their story as told by Wallis Ann, the middle child, age 14. I found this to be a true coming of age novel, filled with feeling and teaming with emotion. Wallis Ann is strong and determined, yet is but a teen trying to find her place. The language is evocative of the "mountain people" and I came to love the way that they spoke. It seemed so true to this time period and where it takes place. This story will tug at your heartstrings and keep you praying for this family. I felt as if I was there. I could hear the creek flowing, I could hear the birds singing. I was a part of their struggles and the triumphs. I was inside of this book, heart and soul, throughout. This book definitely makes you feel. I could feel the fear, the happiness, the love and the pain. This book is so well written, that you can't help but fall within its pages. It flows effortlessly just like the river, from beginning to end. The story is vivid in its depictions. All of the characters are richly developed and believable. This family always had hope and faith. They had their fair share of struggles, but in the end, family is what matters most. " We're going to keep on having hope until there's no possibility of having it anymore. That's all we can do." Love is what carries throughout this book, with all its bumps and bruises. In the end, love and hope is what carries us all. I truly hope you will read this incredible book. You will not be able to put it down. I read until my eyes were blurry from fatigue. Thank you, Donna Everhart, for writing such an exquisite novel. I know I will not forget the Stamper family ,their struggles or their love for a very long time. I will remember Wallis Ann and her story forever. Pick up this book when it comes out on December 26, 2017. Please. It is worth every penny to read it.

  • Judy Collins

    Donna Everhart takes readers to Stampers Creek, 1940 North Carolina along the Tuckasegee River with the Stampers family.

    —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

    "It takes courage to find your way."

    near Cashiers, NC, we meet Wallis Ann. Fourteen-years-old and wise beyond her years. She takes most of the burden c

    Donna Everhart takes readers to Stampers Creek, 1940 North Carolina along the Tuckasegee River with the Stampers family.

    —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

    "It takes courage to find your way."

    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.

    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).

    The family played music, known as The Stamper Family. From the piano, banjo, fiddle, among others.

    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.

    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.

    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."

    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."

    a well-written emotional Southern coming-of-age novel of family, heartbreak, love, loss, and acceptance.

    For fans of Southern historical fiction and authors:

    Look forward to reading more.

  • Judy

    A riveting piece of southern historical fiction! I love stories of Appalachia and the south in general. This is a story of hardship and survival through the eyes of Wallis Stamper. This is somewhat of a coming of age story as well. I loved the author's writing style which puts you in the setting and nailed the language of Appalachia.

    Wallis Stamper and her family were caught in the flood of the Tuckasegee river near Cashiers, North Carolina in 1940 when a dam broke after torrential rains. The flo

    A riveting piece of southern historical fiction! I love stories of Appalachia and the south in general. This is a story of hardship and survival through the eyes of Wallis Stamper. This is somewhat of a coming of age story as well. I loved the author's writing style which puts you in the setting and nailed the language of Appalachia.

    Wallis Stamper and her family were caught in the flood of the Tuckasegee river near Cashiers, North Carolina in 1940 when a dam broke after torrential rains. The flooding was devastating and the Stamper family lost everything. Fourteen-year-old Wallis and her parents, her sixteen-year-old sister Laci (a mute savant, who can play any musical instrument), and her three-year-old brother Seph survive the flood but have to start over with nothing - nowhere to sleep, nothing to eat, no change of clothes, and no money - nothing at all.

    Wallis is a very strong character who seems much older than her years. She has a lot of courage and determination and shoulders much responsibility.

    Thanks to Donna Everhart and Kensington Books through Netgalley for an advance copy of this novel.

  • Linda Zagon

    IMG_1660My Review of “The Road to Bittersweet” by Donna Everhart

    WOW! Kudos to Donna Earhart, Author of “The Road to Bittersweet” for such an incredible, heartwarming and emotional journey. It was really difficult for me to put “The Road to Bittersweet” down, because I just had to see what happened. I love the author’s description and sounds and scenery of nature, the land, the water, and both the beauty and devastation that can occur. It is just amazing the way Donna Earhart weaves her story and

    IMG_1660My Review of “The Road to Bittersweet” by Donna Everhart

    WOW! Kudos to Donna Earhart, Author of “The Road to Bittersweet” for such an incredible, heartwarming and emotional journey. It was really difficult for me to put “The Road to Bittersweet” down, because I just had to see what happened. I love the author’s description and sounds and scenery of nature, the land, the water, and both the beauty and devastation that can occur. It is just amazing the way Donna Earhart weaves her story and descriptions together. The timeline of the story is 1940, and the story starts in Stampers Creek, North Carolina.

    In this story the water seems to be symbolic. The creek rises, and storms and a hurricane destroy what little home is left for 14-year-old Wallis Ann Stamper and her family. The horrific storm causes deaths, and loss of livestock, homes, and almost separates the Stamper family, who luckily find each other. Having only themselves, and very little possessions, they seek to survive by leaving their destroyed homestead and travel on.

    The author describes her characters facing and enduring crisis after crisis and emotional and physical hardship. Wallis Ann is my favorite character. Although she is young she is strong-willed, and physically determined to do what has to be done. Wallis Ann is left in charge of her younger baby brother, and her older sister Laci. Laci has never spoken any words, but is intellectually musically gifted. Laci can listen to any sound of music, and reproduce it.

    The author describes this as an emotional journey as well as a physical one. It is a journey to finding oneself. I appreciate that the author stresses the importance of family, friends, emotional support, hard work, love, faith and hope. I would highly recommend this bittersweet , captivating, and intriguing story. Happy Reading !

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