Sugar Fork

Written by Walt Larimore
Review by Jo Ann Butler

North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains are a tough place to make a living in the 1920s, and life becomes even harder for Abbie Randolph when her mother dies in childbirth. Though she is only fourteen, Abbie is left to raise her four younger sisters while her father works long, hard hours at a mine and supplements his income by running medicinal moonshine. Two years later the Randolph family may not be prosperous, but they are holding together. Then Abbie’s father fails to return from a deer hunt. Cherokee friends find Nate Randolph grievously wounded by gunshots, and he is certain that a lumber company’s manager is behind the ambush.

Sugar Fork Valley’s most valuable asset is the beauty of its ancient chestnuts and oaks, but they are being felled as quickly as the company can buy or lease the land. Despite being shot, Nate refuses to sell his timber, so the company’s agent takes drastic measures that will surely force the Randolph girls off their land or compel them to sell their timber to survive.

The award-winning Dr. Larimore’s historical novel describes how the Sugar Fork community rallies around the Randolph girls, and this clearly told, tender tale will touch both adult and young adult readers. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Sugar Fork and meeting the tough, winsome Abbie, and so will you.