When the Jessamine Grows

Written by Donna Everhart
Review by Linda Harris Sittig

While most people know our nation was divided during the Civil War, very little has been written about Southerners who fervently desired to stay neutral. This is the story of one family, the McBrides, who are small-time farmers in rural Nash County, North Carolina, and how the mother, Joetta McBride, staunchly refuses to take sides in the war.

When her fifteen-year-old son, Henry, runs off to become a Confederate soldier, Joetta begs her husband, Ennis, to go after Henry and bring him home. Left alone to work the farm, she only has her cantankerous elderly father-in-law and her eleven-year-old son Robert for company. When her Confederate father-in-law spreads the word in town that Joetta allowed a Union soldier to draw a drink of water from her well, Joetta quickly becomes fodder for gossip. Then, when she refuses to wear a Confederate cockade, the gossip against her spirals and becomes dangerous. As the months pass, food becomes scarce, and their crops are destroyed. Joetta is faced with the decision of sticking by her moral beliefs or caving to her neighbors in order to save the farm.

Superbly crafted characters move the plot forward quickly, enticing the reader to turn each page to follow the action. The author expertly incorporates her historical research to reflect the mood of the time with gripping detail. Definitely recommended.