Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Unto These Hills, by Emily Sue Harvey


The Story Plant, ISBN 9781611880250, November 2011

This is a Southern family saga, not ordinarily my preferred reading, but Emily Sue Harvey weaves a compelling story with a central character who grabs you and won't let go.

Sunny Acklin is a teenager growing up in the "mill hill" village of Tucapau, South Carolina in the late forties as the book opens. Despite the stresses and embarrassments of her parents', to say the least, imperfect marriage, she grows up feeling safe and cherished in extended family of the tight-knit village. Then everything gradually starts to unravel, and Sunny is struggling to hold things together.

Her parents divorce after a humiliating scandal. Soon they're both gone, her mother with her new lover and her father "looking for work" and occasionally remembering to send money home. Sunny, her two sisters, and her brother are dependent on Nana, their aging grandmother, with some help from her other daughter, their Aunt Tina. Sunny's sister Francine is showing all their mother's most distressing personality traits; their youngest sibling, Sheila, is turning into an attention-seeking, manipulative little liar. It's a struggle for them all, but Sunny also has the support of her growing relationship with her boyfriend, Daniel.

It's difficult to say more without major spoilers, but Sunny works to build a moral, upright, and happy life in the midst of major obstacles, often created by the family she loves. Guided and sustained by her faith and her friends, she makes her little corner of the world better for her presence in it.

This is, ultimately, a joyous book.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.