THIS CAPTIVATING STORY takes place in the Sugar Fork Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains wilderness during 1925–1926. Nate Randolph and his five unique daughters wrestle to survive after the death of Callie (his wife and their mother) as well as to maintain their farm, forests, family, and faith against an evil lumber company manager seeking to clear-cut their virgin woodland.
A cast of delightful characters, including gypsy siblings, Cherokee Indians, a granny midwife, a world-famous writer, and even a flesh-and-blood Haint, join our heroine, sixteen-year-old Abbie Randolph, in her life-and-death struggle. Abbie falls in love for the first time, helps run the farm, and mothers her independent sisters while battling to preserve her faith when senseless murders threaten to destroy her family and way of life.
Will the Randolph family survive intact? Will the farm be saved? Only a miracle could make it happen.
With the march of the industrial age, especially industrial lumbering, the roaring twenties, Prohibition, the increasing momentum for a national park, and the onslaught of a modern world, trains, and radio communication, the traditional life and ways of our Southern Highlanders were about to change forever.
Reading Group Guide
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Which of the Randolph sisters did you most like? Which one did you most identify with? Why?
2. Abbie and her sisters seemed particularly close to their father. Why do you think that was?
3. Abbie and her sisters hated the damage the lumber company inflicted on their valley, yet they also seemed to enjoy some of the luxuries the company provided (such as community events, ice cream, a movie theater). How do you think they would explain this apparent contradiction?
4. Although the moonshine whiskey was “medicinal,” Nate seemed to know it was being used for illegal purposes. Even if what he did was “legal,” was it right, especially knowing that people were using the product illegally?
5. At several points in the book, the locals (Maddie and Granville Calhoun, to name two) argued that the Prohibition was either wrong or evil or both. Do you think their arguments were valid? If so, why? If not, why?
6. The characters had a variety of feelings about the impact a national park might have on their valley. If you lived there, at that time, how would you have felt? Would you have favored the formation of a national park, even if it meant losing your home?
7. Dr. Andrew Keller was the lumber-company doctor. Did the locals trust him or just tolerate him? Why or why not? Explain your view.
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