Awarded first in Narrative Nonfiction and Memoir/Biography and first in all categories in the 14-state Southeast Region by Reader Views from among publications from small, independent and academic presses
Awarded second place in Narrative Nonfiction and in Women’s Issues by the International Book Awards
Won second place in Women’s Issues in the USA Best Books 2011 Awards
Was nominated for Best Nonfiction Book of the Year by Southern Independent Booksellers Association
Voted by 530 book clubs Bonus Book of the Year of the Pulpwood Queens
Imagine sleeping with the enemy in the hills of Tennessee when the enemy totes a Bible and packs a .38. Mike shoved and slapped but his primary tools were isolation and economic abuse until he discovered the power of the Lord. As the Sycamore Grows is a nonfiction narrative about ending the legacy of abuse. Ginger McNeil was brought up to pray and obey, but she escaped the padlocked cabin in the woods where she lived off the land with no electricity or telephone.
From the woods into the court system—Ginger became an advocate in the Alabama domestic court system. Her husband Mike admitted the abuse, held no remorse, and would do it all again. God made women to serve, he said. It’s their job. Both Ginger and Mike speak, as do family, friends, ex-spouses, and others. Threading through the story is loss: the alienation of families, a spiritual void from betrayal by their church, and the death of the son Ginger had abandoned.
Epilogue. Dateline NBC filmed Ginger’s graduation from college in telling her story, but the program was bumped because of breaking news.
Ginger became the voice for victims of domestic abuse, first in the courts of six counties and then at the state legislature in Montgomery, and on as a dynamic speaker around the Southeast. She worked with abusers as well. “After all, I had a good teacher,” she said. Eventually she retired to help Rocky, her adoring new husband, raise Christmas trees and tomatoes. Then the pandemic came—and Ginger is back at her old job, filling in until staff can resume their duties.
Mike died in 2021 following a long illness.
As the Sycamore Grows is in all the women’s shelters in Alabama and Georgia; it has been used in women’s prisons in Alabama and Alaska, in programs for homeless women in Colorado, for teaching first responders and social workers in Alabama and Georgia and more. Viewed as providing hope and inspiration to overcome whatever might hold someone back from reaching their potential, it was read over PBS to the blind in Georgia and used in ministries of the Methodist Church.
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Helderman. 3747 Peachtree Rd NE 241, Atlanta, GA 30319. Please include payment of $20 to cover the book and shipping.