Book review by Bev Scott
In 1940, the Tuckasegee River in the Appalachian Mountains overflows its banks and forces Wallis Ann Stamper and her family to flee in the middle of the night. Wallis Ann becomes separated from her parents, younger brother and older sister, Laci, a mute and musically gifted savant. She is ultimately reunited with her family. But her challenges trying to return to their flood damaged home demonstrate her strength, ingenuity and courage. In addition, they also open her eyes to the wider world beyond their land on Stamper’s Creek.
With what is left of their possessions, the family piles into the truck beginning a perilous journey to look for food, work and shelter. A friendship that blossoms between Wallis Ann and Clayton, a high diving performer for a traveling show, provides an opportunity for this singing family to perform with the show, stave off their starvation and earn some money. But Clayton’s attention to Laci brings jealousy and anger separating the two sisters and creating a family crisis.
This is a story of an innocent young teenage girl with grit, courage, persistence and competence. She finds wisdom and self-understanding through the challenges of poverty, tragedy, and family trauma. Wallis Ann is a strong character possessing qualities that endear her to me…self-reliance, willingness to work hard and a strong love and devotion to her family. At times I felt the descriptions of the trials and travails of this family were too drawn out and I wanted to move on. But, overall, the story is engaging and pulled me in the first pages.
I recommend The Road to Bittersweet.