Everhart’s Saints of the South

Her writing evokes the senses as it breathes life back into memories held by every Southerner

Photo: Maranda Walsh Photography

Her writing evokes the senses as it breathes life back into memories held by every Southerner — the heavy screech and accompanied slam of a screen door, the resonant chirp of peeper frogs on a warm Spring night, the high-pitched drone of the cicada’s call, the sweetness of wild honeysuckle, and of course, the taste of good home cooking. But with the delight of nostalgia, comes a tale of perseverance through struggle, triumph over hardship and a resilient sense of humor despite it all— that and more in her new story “The Saints of Swallow Hill.” 

Author Donna Everhart indulges readers with refreshingly authentic Southern heroines in gripping tales of perseverance over human weakness and hard times. Her historical fiction novels pay homage to the intrigue of the American South, its diverse terrain, both alluring and merciless, and the colorful blend of characters that reside there. From a cotton farm in North Carolina in “The Forgiving Kind” to the thick pine woods of Alabama in “The Education of Dixie Dupree,” Everhart shapes the lives of her remarkably realistic characters around the struggles of their circumstance and the challenges of the human condition. 

Excerpt: There wasn’t one note of singing while women hung out the wash, no chatting over fences, no children shouting in play, not one chant of the alphabet from the schoolroom; silent were the swishing of brooms in yards and absent were the fragrant smells from cook pots…the camp had quietly died, its lifeblood withdrawing, the same way blood withdraws to the center of the body when dying.

Woven with resilience and grit, Everhart’s latest tribute, “The Saints of Swallow Hill,” follows Rae Lynn Cobb and Delwood Reese, two protagonists unknowingly on a quest of self-discovery while seeking anonymity in a turpentine camp outside Valdosta, Georgia named Swallow Hill. But to them, the day-to-day in an indentured servitude camp is merely a matter of self-preservation. The Great Depression has left many desperate for work or for a new start. For Rae and Delwood, they’re desperate enough to leave their homes in North Carolina down to Swallow Hill, where the nagging mosquitoes and relentless heat are the least of their worries. 

Dripping with authenticity, Everhart’s latest novel delightfully astounds as her powerful prose lifts the characters from the page. Readers will be right there in Swallow Hill with Rae Lynn, a woman who can’t be moved, as her fighting spirit pushes her to endure what some men never could. Layered in themes of friendship, right and wrong and unrelenting courage, “The Saints of Swallow Hill” is a page-turning adventure.

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