Review of The Saints of Swallow Hill by Donna Everhart
This Depression-era-set historical fiction story tracks characters in intensely difficult situations as they successfully fight for justice, peace, love, and forgiveness in a satisfying story arc that captivated me.
The Saints of Swallow Hill traces the paths of Rae Lynn and Del, disparate characters in Depression-era Georgia who have two important things in common: each of their searches for food, shelter, and survival is becoming more desperate; and each of them is running from dark secrets that threaten to destroy them.
Their hardscrabble stories intersect at a turpentine camp in Georgia. There, workers struggle to flip the pattern of owing more money to the camp than they can earn; try to avoid the unwelcome notice of the cruel boss; and aim to escape before meeting untimely deaths in the dangerous woods, as many unlucky workers seem to do.
Everhart includes one of my favorite setups, in which a woman dresses as a man in order to achieve some end. Here, Rae Lynn seeks an escape from danger and needs to earn a wage, but unwittingly places herself in greater jeopardy.
As I read the first pages of this book, I admit that I was fairly hesitant--the tone felt increasingly bleak, and I wasn't sure if Everhart was going to revel in creating further mishaps and disasters for her characters.
I was grateful when she laid out not only a tale of intense hardship, bad luck, and rough circumstances in a difficult period of our nation's history, but also a captivating story of determination, struggles for improvement, deep human connection, justice, love, and hope. I'm so very glad I stuck this one out so I could see these characters through and witness their journeys' ends.
I received a prepublication digital copy of this recently published book courtesy of NetGalley and Kensington Books.
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
Donna Everhart is also the author of The Road to Bittersweet, The Moonshiner's Daughter, The Education of Dixie Dupree, and The Forgiving Kind, none of which I have yet read. I want to read more of her books.