Book Title and Author: The Forgiving Kind by Donna Everhart
Publication Date and Publisher: January 29, 2019 by Kensington
Genre: Historical Fiction, Southern
Pages: 352 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: December 26, 2018 (papercopy ARC from the publisher)
For twelve-year-old Martha “Sonny” Creech, there is no place more beautiful than her family’s cotton farm. She, her two brothers, and her parents work hard on their land—hoeing, planting, picking—but only Sonny loves the rich, dark earth the way her father does. When a tragic accident claims his life, her stricken family struggles to fend off ruin—until their rich, reclusive neighbor offers to help finance that year’s cotton crop.
Sonny is dismayed when her mama accepts Frank Fowler’s offer; even more so when Sonny’s best friend, Daniel, points out that the man has ulterior motives. Sonny has a talent for divining water—an ability she shared with her father and earns her the hated nickname “water witch” in school. But uncanny as that skill may be, it won’t be enough to offset Mr. Fowler’s disturbing influence in her world. Even her bond with Daniel begins to collapse under the weight of Mr. Fowler’s bigoted taunts. Though she tries to bury her misgivings for the sake of her mama’s happiness, Sonny doesn’t need a willow branch to divine that a reckoning is coming, bringing with it heartache, violence—and perhaps, a fitting and surprising measure of justice.
Donna Everhart can only be described as an exceptional writer with an innate gift for storytelling that from my earliest childhood I’ve always associated with sitting on my grandparent’s front porch in either a rocking chair or a wooden swing, the southern air wrapping its steamy, fragrant arms around me while listening with rapt attention to stories of bygone days of when they grew up…stories so deeply ingrained in my southern roots that reading Everhart’s books vividly brings them to life, especially since I’ve lived most of my life in North Carolina, the setting for her novels, including her newest, exceptionally outstanding novel, The Forgiving Kind.
There’s something about Everhart’s writing that is beyond captivating as she transports you to another time and place making you a part of the story she so expertly weaves, which is one reason that I call her a master writer and storyteller–some authors only write words on paper, but Everhart, like the greatest of authors, creates art with her words, paints a picture that sends you on an emotional journey while exploring the facets of human nature.
It’s 1950s North Carolina and main protagonist Sonny Creech is a twelve-year-old free-spirited, feisty girl who is suddenly grief-stricken at the tragic death of her father. It’s a loss that’s especially devastating for the entire family, her mother Violet and older brothers Trent and Ross since they discover his death has left them in dire financial straits without even enough money to plant cotton for one year’s growing season. The family is left to manage as best as they can, to pull together, which they do since love is strong in the Creech family although grief has left its mark. But that won’t be enough to keep food on the table and bills paid…
They’re forced to accept help from their wealthy neighbor, Frank Fowler, a man filled with bigotry and hate, yet it seems that only Sonny and her best friend Daniel can see behind the mask he wears when around Violet; that is until it is too late, and Violet understands that he’s not “just a man” as she had so often told Sonny when she complained of his behavior.
Frank’s outright contempt and abuse of Daniel broke my heart and left me in tears just like it tore at Sonny and Daniel’s friendship. It was horrible to read about his actions towards children, as well as his other abusive behavior, but I know that it wasn’t uncommon for the era or North Carolina during that time. Horribly and embarrassingly enough, having lived in the south for over four decades, I’ve seen and heard my share of his type of hate and bigotry to know that although things have improved, there’s still a long way to go here in the south before that type of bigotry is erased.
Everhart’s characters are what I fell in love with in this story because they’re so realistic and flawed, even Sonny a teenage girl on the precipice of self-discovery and wonder, afflicted by tragedy and full of mistakes, still is able to find joy and laughter in life’s everyday moments. This is a story about friendship, self-discovery, and coming of age, but it’s also so much more since Everhart writes about grief, loss, survival, love, abuse, bigotry, homophobia, homosexuality, perseverance, and what it really means to forgive, both others and yourself. I love how Everhart tackled some huge issues in this book and did so with grace and sensitivity, as well as with great empathy. Oh, and make sure you read the Author’s Note..it explains some important parts of the book and how she wrote them; it’s a definite “must-read”!
If you haven’t read Everhart’s books yet, then I highly recommend that you pick one up, starting with The Forgiving Kind, which releases on January 29, 2019. Yet they are all perfect and her other books, The Road to Bittersweet and The Education of Dixie Dupree are also on my all-time favorite books shelf along with this one. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed in reading The Forgiving Kind!
**Thank you, Lulu Martinez, at Kensington Books and Donna Everhart for the beautiful ARC copy to read and review in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. **