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January 25, 2022

The Saints of Swallow Hill by Donna Everhart ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts


At the crossroads, Tom pointed to a sign tacked to a big oak tree, crudely painted with the words, SWALLOW HILL WORK CAMP and an arrow pointing right.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.
 
The Saints of Swallow Hill
January 2022; Kensington;  978-1496733320
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); southern fiction

It's always a happy day in my reading life to get a Donna Everhart book in my hands.  She refers to herself as an author of Southern novels with authenticity and grit.  I refer to her as one of my favorite authors of Southern historical fiction.  I have read every book she's written and loved them all.  (See a list of her books at the end of this post)

This novel takes place during the Depression in North Carolina.  One of the major crops in the state during this time was turpentine - laborers hacked into pine tree trunks to draw out the sticky sap and hauled the resin to refineries to be distilled into turpentine.  This is the reason that North Carolina is often referred to as the Tar Heel State.  The work was brutal but it was the Depression and people worked at anything available to feed their families. 

Rae Lynn is the main character.  She grew up in an orphanage and when Warren, a man much older than she, asked her to marry him, she was thrilled to finally have a home and family of her own.  Warren was a small-time maker of turpentine and Rae Lynn stayed right by his side and worked as hard as he did.  After Rae Lynn performs a desperate act of mercy on her ailing husband, she knows that she needs to leave town.  She dresses as a man and volunteers to work at the turpentine labor camp called Swallow Hill.  There she meets Del, a man who has wandered his entire life.  He takes a liking to the young 'man' and tries to protect him from the evil boss, Crow, whose main goal is to punish workers to make them work harder.  Can Rae Lynn and Del make the environment of the work camp better for the workers and get rid of the sadistic crew boss?   Can Rae Lynn and Dell confront their pasts so that they can create a new future for themselves?

I live in North Carolina and never knew where the term Tar Heel came from or anything about making turpentine.  Donna Everhart really did her research in this book and gave her readers a very interesting look at the work involved in making turpentine.  The setting was beautiful in the large pine forests of North Carolina. For me, the best part of the book was the characters - especially Rae Lynn.  She tried so hard to find a family and just when it seemed like she was going to be successful, she got knocked down over and over.  Because she was such a strong woman, she kept getting up again and looking for her happy ending.  She was a character that won't soon be forgotten.

My advice for you is to read this book - you don't want to miss it.  Clear your calendar before you read the first page because you won't want to do anything else but read the book to the conclusion.  Once again Donna Everhart has given her readers a southern novel full of authenticity and grit! 



https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/hostedimages/1623416709i/31475711.jpg
I have a Pinterest page with lots of photos I used for research, but this was the only one I could find that might represent how Swallow Hill might have looked like. (DE)

Other Books by Donna Everhart

The Road to Bittersweet  See review 
The Education of Dixie Dupree  See review
The Forgiving Kind  See review
The Moonshiner's Daughter  See review


Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.


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1 comments:

  1. Ah - yes, this is the review that gave me such hope for this book! Thank you for writing such lovely words about my work.

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