Jessie Sasser was four years old when her Mama died, and she blames her Daddy, Easton, for it. The way she sees it, if her Daddy wasn’t obsessed with making moonshine—just like all the Sassers that came before him—her Mama might still be alive. Instead, all she has left of her is the horrifying memory of seeing her engulfed in flames. Making moonshine is in her veins, or so Easton says, and her younger brother Merritt agrees… but they’re both wrong. Jessie hates moonshine, and she’s come up with a plan to destroy all of her Daddy’s stills… not knowing her actions would lead to terrible consequences that would touch the lives of everyone closest to her.
“The only memory I have of Mama, she was on fire.”
That is how you hook your readers from the very first line—and I was well and truly hooked from there on out.
Readers see everything through Jessie’s eyes, learning about past and present events that happen in the story through her narration. It’s clear right from the start that Jessie remains profoundly affected by the loss of her mother, the pain of that loss made worse by the horrific way she died. In the earliest parts of the story, Jessie asks questions about her mother repeatedly, but is stonewalled not only by Easton, but her Uncle Virgil, as well, who insists it isn’t his place to tell her anything. Denied the answers she craves and forced to help make the moonshine she despises, Jessie turns to coping methods that are as obsessive as they are dangerous.
I was immediately drawn to Jessie’s character. By the time I’d finished reading the first chapter, I felt fiercely protective of her. Every time something troubling was happening that either focused directly on Jessie, or affected her deeply, I’d have to pause for a moment before moving on. Each new tribulation she faced weighed heavily on my heart, and even when she rose to the occasion and faced head on, I couldn’t help but wonder just how much that poor girl could take. Jessie was the quintessential dichotomy of strength and fragility—always pushing forward and doing what she must, even when she had to fight her own weaknesses or self-doubt in order to do it.
Betrayal lies at the heart of this story. It is a recurring theme that comes from both expected and unexpected sources, and drives a large portion of the story forward. Justice and injustice were accompanying motifs, brought into sharp focus when the Sasser family was harassed by rival bootleggers. An ordinary family would be able to turn to the law for help, but how can you get justice when you, yourself, are also guilty of criminal acts? What can you do, when you must deny yourself the help you would otherwise feel safe to seek?
I came away from this story feeling as if I’d walked alongside Jessie every step of the way. Whether she tending the stills, fighting adversities, or struggling with her inner demons, I was there. I felt her anger and frustration, her worries and fears. I could have wept with pride at her triumphs, because when they came, it meant the world to me in that moment. I don’t think I’ll ever forget Jessie Sasser, and part of that is because of the way the book ended. I wish I could discuss that ending in this review, but of course, I can’t. I’ll just say that it took my breath away, without explaining why.
Everhart has once again written a deeply moving story with richly imagined characters and situations that prove to be infinitely fascinating. Having read all her previous novels, I had high hopes for The Moonshiner’s Daughter, and expected it to be good, but I was absolutely blown away by how outstanding it was. I highly recommend this book for fans of southern fiction and historical fiction. You do NOT want to miss out on this one, folks.
About the Book
Set in North Carolina in 1960 and brimming with authenticity and grit, The Moonshiner’s Daughter evokes the singular life of sixteen-year-old Jessie Sasser, a young woman determined to escape her family’s past . . .
Generations of Sassers have made moonshine in the Brushy Mountains of Wilkes County, North Carolina. Their history is recorded in a leather-bound journal that belongs to Jessie Sasser’s daddy, but Jessie wants no part of it. As far as she’s concerned, moonshine caused her mother’s death a dozen years ago.
Her father refuses to speak about her mama, or about the day she died. But Jessie has a gnawing hunger for the truth—one that compels her to seek comfort in food. Yet all her self-destructive behavior seems to do is feed what her school’s gruff but compassionate nurse describes as the “monster” inside Jessie.
Resenting her father’s insistence that moonshining runs in her veins, Jessie makes a plan to destroy the stills, using their neighbors as scapegoats. Instead, her scheme escalates an old rivalry and reveals long-held grudges. As she endeavors to right wrongs old and new, Jessie’s loyalties will bring her to unexpected revelations about her family, her strengths—and a legacy that may provide her with the answers she has been longing for.
About the Author
Born in Raleigh, North Carolina, she has lived close to her hometown for most of her life. For several years she worked for high tech companies, specializing in project management and product introduction. She carries a Bachelor of Science in Business Management. She lives in Dunn, North Carolina with her husband, Blaine, and a tiny, heart stealing Yorkshire terrier, named Mister.