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Flashbacks: Echoes of Past Issues

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for a relationship like her parents, it seems that the character would have more pressing concerns at this moment than the equity of her parents’ relationship. One of the areas in which Everheart succeeds is in creating an unmistakable voice. Wallis Ann’s speech and thoughts are peppered with enough colloquial expressions and rustic rhythms to demonstrate to readers Everheart’s ability to fully render a believable character. On the whole, however, the novel feels rather uneven. Many characters remain flat, and the plotlines themselves do not engender much in the way of tension. Several of the novel’s potentially engaging plotlines are wrapped up in predictable, if satisfying ways, within a chapter or two. The novel’s major conflict, on the other hand, does not occur until the final fifty pages of the novel, and is resolved in an unconvincing and rushed manner that undermines much of the character development and humanizing of a trivialized lot that has occurred for the bulk of the text. n

DONNA EVERHART, USA Today bestselling author of The Education of Dixie Dupree (Kensington Publishing Group, 2016), is originally from Raleigh, NC. The Road to Bittersweet is a Publisher’s Lunch Buzz Book for Fall/Winter 2017–2018 and a 2018 Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Trio Pick. The author is a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network and Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She currently resides in Dunn, NC.

ABOVE The Tuckasegee River in Cullowhee during the flood of 1940

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example, also early in the novel, Wallis Ann huddles with her family in the bed of her father’s truck as rapidly rising floodwaters threaten to dislodge the vehicle from its position and toss the family helplessly in the raging, muddy waters below. In this rather thrilling moment, Wallis Ann notices her mother’s gaze fixed firmly on her father’s eyes. Everheart writes, “I seen their love so clearly, it was like somebody had placed me in front of a dirty window and then wiped it sparkling clean. Love like theirs was what I wanted, the kind what held on and never let go. The lasting kind, equal in measure for each person” (20). As a general conceit, this passage works well enough. It highlights the observant nature and lasting optimism so integral to Wallis Ann’s character. Still, this passage occurring during the midst of a furious flood, at a point in which the family’s very lives were at stake, strikes this reviewer as completely unrealistic. While it is, of course, within the realm of possibility that a teenager would have such thoughts about the respect and desire she has

contaminated from the runoff of the recent flood poisons the youngest member of the Stamper family. The surviving family members cope with the loss in their own ways, from Wallace Ann’s self-blame for accidentally facilitating Seph’s consumption of the water by turning her attention from him for a few brief minutes, to the patriarch’s necessary need for goal-oriented action. Everheart writes poetically of Wallis Ann’s father digging Seph’s grave: “As time went on, the digging turned into him stabbing violently at the earth over and over, working out his demons. The ferocious way he mutilated the soil was in direct contrast to Momma” (122). This passage highlights a key dichotomy in how the Stamper parents conduct themselves following the death of their child. While William seeks physical tasks, Ann retreats to a mental space that leaves her fraught and impotent. In the days following, Wallis Ann keeps “waiting on Momma to break” (123), but instead of breaking, Ann continues to inhabit a withdrawn, colorless space. In her adroit understanding of the various modes through which grief can manifest itself within individuals, Everheart crafts an affecting and realistic portrait of a family during a time of loss. While the novel handles the concept of grief quite well, it falters in other emotional capacities. Though there are several convincingly phrased ruminations of love and family, these thoughts often feel heavy-handed due to odd placement within the text. For

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North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

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