The Forgiving Kind

Written by Donna Everhart
Review by Bryan Dumas

Sonny Creech can divine water, but more than that, she can divine the storm that’s coming in Everhart’s coming-of-age story set in 1950s North Carolina. Twelve-year-old Sonny lives on the family’s cotton farm with her parents and two older brothers. When her father dies from a snake bite, ruin seems inevitable. That is, until their peculiar neighbor, Frank Fowler, offers his help—and money—for just a little something in return. Sonny’s friend, Daniel, immediately senses that Frank has ulterior motives and warns Sonny. Frank is a truly ugly character, one that isn’t mean spirited for fun, but because some people are just born that way. His venom is directed at Daniel, who isn’t like the other boys in town, and Sonny and her brothers soon learn about Frank’s darker secret. Under his overwhelming yoke, Sonny learns about resilience, the power of friendship, and, ultimately, the sacrifices people make for family.

Everhart is quickly establishing her place in the coming-of-age genre. With Sonny and Daniel, she has created two kids who are not wise-cracking or philosophical adults in children’s bodies, but youngsters who are doing everything they can to understand an ever-changing world and their own place in it. Equally rich are Everhart’s depictions of the South, in this case, the dry cotton fields of a North Carolina farm. There’s a saying for North Carolinians: They may not do it better, but they sure do it slower. The pacing of the story lingers, but it is true to the slower nature of North Carolina, and it winds up to a dramatic, heart-wrenching finish. Everhart has certainly “done it better.” With a diverse cast and layered themes, The Forgiving Kind may be Everhart’s best yet.