"Buttermilk Hill" continues the saga of the Lamberts, a family that readers will remember from White's 1992 novel "Weeping Willow." "Weeping Willow" centers on Tiny Lambert, while "Buttermilk Hill" is narrated by Tiny's daughter, Piper Berry. When the novel opens, Piper is a carefree 10-year-old living in a North Carolina trailer park. She spends her days fishing and listening to stories with her best Lindy; although Lindy and Piper are the same age, Lindy is technically Piper's aunt.
During her pivotal 10th year, Piper learns that her parents are far from happy and far from living the life they intended to live. Piper's father, Denver Berry, was a talented baseball player who turned down an offer from the pro leagues because he was too afraid to leave Buttermilk Hill, the only home he has ever known. Piper's mother never finished college, getting wedded and pregnant before she could fulfill her dream of being a music teacher. Fearing that life is passing her by, a restless Tiny Lambert-Berry declares, “I want more than this” (14) and returns to college in pursuit of her education degree. When Denver fails to support Tiny's decision, the two file for a divorce and Tiny takes a job waiting tables in a local pub. But being a single parent, a working mother, and a college student means that Tiny has less and less time to spend with her daughter. To comfort herself, Piper begins writing poetry.
The following summer, Denver remarries. With Dad distracted by his new family and her mother struggling to balance work, school, and a boyfriend, Piper feels increasingly family-less and spends more and more time channeling her loneliness and anger into poetry.
Lindy convinces Piper to read her latest poem outloud at a writer's group that meets in the public library. Piper's poetry impresses everyone in earshot and their eager praise inspires her to bravely share her writing with her family. Piper's poem, “In Young Girls' Dreams,” forces Denver to realize how hurt and unwanted the divorce and subsequent remarriage has left Piper. Ultimately, finding her voice in poetry helps Piper find a voice and a place within her very unconventional family.
This report prepared by Tracie Amirante