The Saints of Swallow Hill
By: Donna Everhart
Publication Date: 01/25/2022
Narrated by: Amy Melissa Bentley
My Rating: 4 Stars (ARC)
Where the Crawdads Sing meets The Four Winds as award-winning author Donna Everhart immerses readers in a unique setting—a turpentine camp buried deep in the vast pine forests of Georgia during the Great Depression—for a captivating story of friendship, survival, and three vagabonds' intersecting lives…
It takes courage to save yourself...
In the dense pine forests of North Carolina, turpentiner's labor, hacking into tree trunks to draw out the sticky sap that gives the Tar Heel State its nickname, and hauling the resin to stills to be refined. Among them is Rae Lynn Cobb and her husband, Warren, who run a small turpentine farm together.
Though the work is hard and often dangerous, Rae Lynn, who spent her childhood in an orphanage, is thankful for it--and for her kind if careless husband. When Warren falls victim to his own negligence, Rae Lynn undertakes a desperate act of mercy. To keep herself from jail, she disguises herself as a man named "Ray" and heads to the only place she can think of that might offer anonymity--a turpentine camp in Georgia named Swallow Hill.
Swallow Hill is no easy haven. The camp is isolated and squalid, and commissary owner Otis Riddle takes out his frustrations on his browbeaten wife, Cornelia. Although Rae Lynn works tirelessly, she becomes a target for Crow, the ever-watchful woods rider who checks each laborer's tally. Delwood Reese, who's come to Swallow Hill hoping for his own redemption, offers "Ray" a small measure of protection, and is determined to improve their conditions. As Rae Lynn forges a deeper friendship with both Del and Cornelia, she begins to envision a path out of the camp. But she will have to come to terms with her past, with all its pain and beauty, before she can open herself to a new life and seize the chance to begin again.
North Carolina storyteller Donna Everhart returns to the south in an emotional story set in the depression-era South. THE SAINTS OF SWALLOW HILL explores the turpentine industry and the people employed in the work camps in the forest.
The story revolves around Rae Lynn Cobb and Delwood ‘Del’ Reese, employed by the Swallow Hill work camp in Georgia. Swallow Hill was filled with dangers from an environmental perspective and within its labor camp practices.
Rae Lynn, recently widowed under tragic circumstances, once ran a small-scale turpentine farm with her late husband. She is on the run to escape her previous life and ends up at the Swallow Hill camp. Disguised as a man “Ray Cobb,” she seeks employment and is put to work with the rest of the men.
From alternating narratives of Rae Lynn and Del’s, we learn the backstories and working conditions that are cruel and involve racism and misogyny. I enjoyed Rae Lynn and Cornelia, both strong and brave women. A fitting title.
Like her other books I have read, a beautifully written story of resilience and survival.
Heartbreaking yet insightful and informative, I always enjoy Donna's storytelling as she honors the Southern states and their rich history that often goes unnoticed. Her characters always come alive on the page, and you are assured to learn something along the way.
Well-researched I had no clue about this part of history that she brings to light and enjoyed her author's note which I found interesting regarding the naval stores. As well as Zora Neale Hurston who spent time in Florida documenting what it was like to work in a labor camp. As a NC native, I did not know the state was at one time the top producer of naval stores in the world.
An ideal pick for book clubs with an extensive Reading Group Guide included.
@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks
Pub Date: Jan 25, 2022
My Rating: 4 Stars
Praise for The Saints of Swallow Hill
“The distinctive setting of the turpentine camps in the South during the Great Depression will make an imprint on readers, just as the characters of Rae Lynn and Del do. Fans of Sarah Addison Allen won't be able to put it down.”—Booklist
Praise for Donna Everhart's Southern Fiction
"Rousing...movingly explores Jessie's struggle with her eating disorder, viscerally describing her twin desires for nourishment and purging in relation to a deep need to define herself...Everhart's story of self-discovery, rife with colorful characters and a satisfying twist, will thrill readers."
—Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW for The Moonshiner's Daughter
"This riveting novel set in the 1960s will have readers, especially those who enjoy Kaye Gibbons and Anna Jean Mayhew, captivated from the first page."
—Booklist, STARRED REVIEW for The Moonshiner's Daughter
"Highly engaging and fast-paced with well-drawn out characters...the glimpse into this landscape and the moonshining underground is equal parts eye-opening and fascinating. Everhart handles Jessie's eating disorder with grace and compassion. The book also explores family loyalty and legacy. There's a lot to digest, and all of it makes for a compelling reading experience."
—The Historical Novels Review on The Moonshiner's Daughter
"Reminiscent of the novels of Lee Smith, Kaye Gibbons, and Sandra Dallas, Everhart builds a firm sense of place, portraying the tiredness and hope of a dry southern summer and voicing strong southern women."
—Booklist on The Forgiving Kind
"Set in 1950s North Carolina, this touching and fearless novel is a coming-of-age story about a young heroine determined to survive and pursue justice out of love for her family."
—She Reads on The Forgiving Kind
"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...Everhart 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."
—The Missourian on The Road to Bittersweet
"Everhart is a good storyteller and makes her characters and their experiences come alive."
—Booklist on The Road to Bittersweet
"An adventure story and coming-of-age story wrapped into one satisfying package... Donna Everhart skillfully evokes a harsh landscape and harsh times, squarely placing the reader in Appalachia right along with the family. Wallis Ann's complicated relationship with her sister is well explored and serves as a catalyst for her growth into a mature young woman."
—Historical Novels Review on The Road to Bittersweet
"With gravitas and heart...Donna Everhart does a deft job of writing about innocence lost."
—Business Insider, Insider Pick for The Education of Dixie Dupree
"This is a dark, haunting book that will linger with you for days, but despite the heaviness of the book, Dixie is a witty, charismatic burst of energy and sunshine who readers will want to rescue themselves. A remarkable story of the triumph of will, and a great coming-of-age novel."
—Historical Novels Review on The Education of Dixie Dupree
"[A] harrowing coming-of-age novel set in Alabama...Readers will be drawn to Dixie, who is full of spunk and grit."
—Booklist on The Education of Dixie Dupree
“Please open your heart to Dixie Dupree. With unflinching honesty and a voice that rings with authenticity, she survives the unthinkable. Her story celebrates the resiliency of the human spirit and the triumph of the imagination. An important novel, beautifully written, this is a story to cherish.”
—Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author on The Education of Dixie Dupree
“Young Dixie Dupree is an indomitable spirit in this coming-of-age novel that is a heartbreaking and honest witness to the resilience of human nature and the fighting spirit and courage residing in all of us.”
—The Huffington Post on The Education of Dixie Dupree
“In a powerful coming‑of‑age story that pitches southern charm against dark family secrets, the voice of 11‑year‑old Dixie Dupree captivates from the first page to the last.”
—Barbara Claypole White, bestselling author of The Perfect Son on The Education of Dixie Dupree
About the Author
Acclaimed Author of Southern Novels with Authenticity and Grit
Donna Everhart is the USA Today bestselling author of Southern fiction with authenticity and grit, including The Saints of Swallow Hill, the Indie Next List selection The Education of Dixie Dupree, The Forgiving Kind, The Moonshiner's Daughter, and the Southeastern Library Association Award-winning novel, The Road to Bittersweet. Born and raised in Raleigh, she has lived close to her hometown for much of her life and now resides with her husband just an hour away in Dunn, North Carolina. Visit Donna Everhart online at DonnaEverhart.com.