Unto These Hills is an unforgettable novel of love, scandal, family, and roots by one of the most emotionally authentic authors of our time. Taking us into the deep South's Tucapau Mill Hill, it introduces us to the unforgettable Sunny Acklin. Betrayed, abandoned, and violated, Sunny faces one seemingly insurmountable challenge after another. But she never loses her spirit or the memory of the love that once so richly illuminated her world. As years go by, Sunny does everything she can to make something of her life until at last an opportunity arises, one charged with promise...and undeniable risk.
From its vivid evocation of mill hill life to its pitch perfect rendering of the complexities of family and relationships, Unto These Hills is at once epic and intensely intimate. It is the richest novel yet from a writer who fluently speaks the language of our deepest feelings.
Unto These Hills is set in the Deep South in a little place called ‘Tucapau Mill Hill’ and 15-year-old Sunny Acklin is dressed for the May Pole dance. Sunny’s boyfriend, Daniel, is 16 and already a strapping 6 foot tall. He and Sunny are planning to be married in the future. Daniel lives across the street from Sunny just having moved in a few months ago. Daniel was a foster child who came to live with the Collin’s family when he was 9-years-old. In a few short months Daniel’s family became central to Sunny’s life.
There is an abundance of other lovable characters in this story: 11-year-old Timmy and 9-year-old Sheila are Sunny’s younger siblings and 16-year-old Francine her older sister. There is Dorthea Hicks, Daniel’s 16-year-old foster sister, 15-year-old Emaline who is Sunny’s best friend and Ruby and Robert Acklin, Sunny’s parents, to name a few. Each character is well-drawn and their personalities shine through in this marvelously penned story.
One afternoon Sunny’s Mom ducks into a store telling Dad, Sunny and her siblings to stay in the car because she is going in to buy them all a surprise! But after waiting an inordinate amount of time for her to return, Robert gets out, enters the store but doesn’t see Ruby anywhere. Mr. Mason the owner tells Robert that Ruby ducked out the back door and got into another car. Sunny knew then that her mother was gone and not coming back. Her mother was guilty of “sexual immorality” and “neglecting her kids”.
Ruby Acklin’s name was worse than mud; it was “slime”. She had run off with the village doctor who was 10 years younger than Ruby. Each family member dealt differently with Ruby’s leaving. Shortly after that their Daddy left too. He went up north to hunt for a job leaving the kids in their Nana’s care. Francine locked herself in her room and smoked cigarettes hidden under her mattress. Little Timmy and Sheila hung off Sunny like extra arms and legs, but for Sunny, her mother’s leaving has left her feeling “…depleted in many ways”. She felt a sense of “aloneness” each day and said it was a “defining time in my life, one that remained like a raw, open wound”.
Sunny Acklin is such a lovable character who does absolutely everything she can to make her life something she can be proud of. Finally an opportunity comes her way but is it what it seems? Will it lead to joy and jubilation or is she taking a risk?
UNTO THESE HILLS was a joy to read, an epic tale rich in strong characterization and storyline. I would highly recommend this to everyone and will definitely be reading more of Ms. Harvey’s work!