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January 23, 2024

When the Jessamine Grows by Donna Everhart ~ A Review

by Susan Roberts

An evocative, morally complex novel set in rural 19th-century North Carolina, as one woman fights to keep her family united, her farm running, and her convictions whole during the most devastating and divisive period in American history.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of southern fiction novel When the Jessamine Grows by Donna Everhart
January 2024; Kensington; 978-1496740700
audio, ebook, print (400 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.

In rural North Carolina, the reality of the Civil War is beginning to hit close to home.  The people in rural NC are staunch  Confederate supporters and anyone who doesn't believe like they do is considered a traitor.  Joetta doesn't pay much attention to the war talk.  She and her husband and two sons live on a small farm and have a good life together.  Joetta doesn't see any reason to take sides -- she wants to remain neutral because the war doesn't really affect them.  Her father-in-law is a major believer in the war and his talk of battle, spurs Joetta's 15-year-old son to sneak away one night to join with the Confederate soldiers.  She's distraught and begs her husband to try to go find him.  He decides the only way to find his son is to join the Army.  With both gone, running the farm falls on Joetta and her 11-year-old son.  She literally worked from sun up to sun down trying to keep the farm running.  She's totally exhausted and isn't getting any help because she is seen as a traitor by her neighbors.  She still wants to remain neutral and despite the fact that her husband and son are fighting with the Confederate army, she is seen as a traitor because of her beliefs.  Will she and her son be able to keep the farm running until the war ends and hopefully, her husband and son return?

Joetta is really a strong and resilient woman.  Even before she was running the farm, she worked all day taking care of her house and garden and animals and her family.  Once her husband and son were gone, she worked even harder.  But to me, her real strength was in her beliefs that the real reasons for the war didn't affect her and her family.  She clung strongly to her beliefs despite the negative reactions from the local people who considered her to be a traitor.  She is a character that I won't soon forget.

As usual, the author did a lot of research and I learned a lot about how much work it was to keep a farm running during this time.  Joetta's day would exhaust anyone in the modern world.    I read a lot of historical fiction and many of the books I read are about wars -- when countries fought other countries.  

This book about the Civil War was a good reminder of what it was like when people in the same country turned against each other.  Another fantastic book from an amazing author.

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.  You can connect with her on Facebook.

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