Donna Everhart tells the tale of the Stampers, a Carolina family who survived a wild flood
on their 1940s homestead in her latest book, “The Road to Bittersweet.” The story of her family’s life is told by 14-year-old Wallace Ann Stamper, just before the flood waters of the nearby river rise chasing all of their neighbors out of their homes and farmlands.
The raging river displaced families, including separating Wallace from her loved ones. Her only sister Laci is older than Wallace Ann by two years and is mute, labeled as an “idiot savant.” Their close relationship helps them communicate in unspoken ways, but that is lost when they are separated.
After the rains stop and the flood waters begin to recede, Wallace Ann find that she has survived, and with the help of neighbors finds her way back to her home place to look for her family. Hoping to see her home, loved ones, horses, anything familiar, their homestead is the natural place to return to as Wallace Ann attempts to put her life back together.
This story of survival and perseverance is heartbreaking and hard, but the ways the characters in the book choose family and hope lead them on paths they would never expect. Laci brings a bright spot to the family when she uses her fiddle to express her deeper thoughts and feelings while adding a magical component to the family’s singing group, The Stampers.
The Stamper family works together with neighbors to rebuild homes and instill hope after the flood. Wallace Ann later takes interest in her neighbor Joe, the sole surviving parent to his young kids. Joe and Wallace Ann work together to make her parents’ home even bigger than the last one, and find that the flood may be the very thing that brought them together.
“The Road to Bittersweet” is the second novel for author Donna Everhart. She creates a signature style by writing in the voice of the main character, a young Southern girl, telling the story from her perspective. Her voice remains true throughout the novel, successfully engaging the reader.