WHEN THE JESSAMINE GROWS
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Few writers evoke fortitude in the face of hardship and the complex heritage of the American South as vividly and authentically as Donna Everhart. Her first five novels, including The Education of Dixie Dupree and The Saints of Swallow Hill, firmly established her as a powerful voice in Southern fiction, receiving much acclaim including an Indie Next List selection, a SIBA Okra Pick, a Southeastern Library Association Award, and two Publishers Marketplace Buzz Books selections.
Now, in her sixth and most richly textured novel to date, Everhart turns to a period earlier and more complex than any she’s previously explored.
When the Jessamine Grows is set during the Civil War, but it is not a war story. Rather, it is a story about those whose fight for survival took place far from any battlefront, told from the rarely heard perspective of a courageous Southern woman whose refusal to support the Confederacy brands her a traitor and a pariah within her own community. It is a story about the impossibility of neutrality in times of injustice. And finally, set amidst the rugged beauty of rural 19th century North Carolina, When the Jessamine Grows is a story about love and loss, family, and survival, standing by one’s values and finding the grace to believe in a better future.
For readers of Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, and Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles, an evocative, morally complex novel set in rural North Carolina during the Civil War, as one woman fights to keep her family united and neutral during the most devastating and divisive period in American history.
Talk of impending war is a steady drumbeat throughout North Carolina, though Joetta McBride pays it little heed. She and her husband, Ennis, have built a modest but happy life for themselves, raising two sons, fifteen-year-old Henry, and eleven-year-old Robert, on a small subsistence farm in rural North Carolina, growing what they need to feed their family and livestock. She has no desire to support the Southern cause or for her family to take sides in a war they do not believe in.
This opinion is not favored by many in their Confederate state – including Joetta’s own father-in-law. As the country becomes further entangled in the ramifications of war, Joetta finds herself increasingly at odds with the townspeople, her friends, and even her family, until finally, one reckless choice proves to impact the McBrides in ways unforeseen to all. Struggling to endure hardships as well as being shunned by many, Joetta remains committed to her principles, her sheer willpower, and the belief that her family will survive. But the greatest tests are still to come, for a fractured nation, for Joetta, and for those she loves…
still to come, for a fractured nation, for Joetta, and for those she loves…