Five years ago, Julia Bell walked away from her life the moment her high school diploma was in her hand. She left her family and friends behind to start over and escape the chokehold of small town life in Benton Hill. But an urgent call from her little sister brings Julia back to her hometown wholly unprepared for what awaits her.
Ben Miller was always the nice guy. Just before high school graduation, he stepped out of that role hoping to capture the heart of the woman he loved. Instead, in quick succession he lost the girl, and the future he worked so hard to achieve.
Even though Julia and Ben are drawn to each other, echoes of the past block them at every turn. Secrets are exposed, and reality needs to be dealt with if they can ever hope to move past the bittersweet junction that ripped them apart.
I lived in a small town until I was twelve years old. My sixth grade class had thirteen students, twelve girls and one boy. Needless to say, my odds were practically non-existent for young love. Not only did I spend those formidable years in a small town attending a small school, but my family lived five miles outside of town “in the country”. Standing in my front yard, I saw nothing but open fields and gravels roads.
With nothing else to do, I escaped to new places through books. I had a few friends, but the friends that I really cared about existed within the pages of my favorite stories. It didn’t seem that strange to me at the time. It was just my life.
I didn’t realize how small my small town life was until I moved to another state into an actual city between sixth and seventh grade. To say I experienced a tremendous culture shock would be an understatement. It forced me out of my shell. Although still a voracious reader, I made a larger circle of friends, and started doing things with people outside of my head. Eventually I grew to love living in a city.
I only went back to that small town a few times throughout junior high and high school to visit family. By the time I was in my early 20s, the shift in my perception between small town and city was noticeably evident. When I would go back for a visit, even though I had been gone for a decade, I still ran into a lot of people who acted like they knew me even though I had no idea who they were. “Oh- you’re Jerry and Nancy’s daughter. How have you been?”
It was odd to me how interested these strangers were in the specific details of my life. What was even more uncomfortable was hearing stories about my parents’ adventures when they lived in town, which occurred more than twenty years ago. People had long memories, and not all of those stories were especially flattering, but there were sweet and funny stories too.
Those are the experiences that I drew on when I wrote about Julia, the main character of Bittersweet Junction, coming back to her hometown of Benton Hill. She’s been gone for five years, but when she returns, people expect her that she’s the same person, even though she’s not.
Benton Hill itself is one of the main characters throughout the book, and I believe that anyone who has lived in a small town will be able to related to that. Ben, who used to be Julia’s best friend and is now her love interest, never left Benton Hill. He finds the scrutiny of living under the microscope of small town eyes frustrating and heavy with expectations. This causes several complications for Julia and Ben.
I’ve reached a stage in my life where I can appreciate the benefits of living in a small town. The pace of life is slower, and friendships can easily span a lifetime. Yet I find that I am now a city girl at heart. Between my childhood in a small town, and adult life in the city, I think I’ve had the best of both words.
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