Review: Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel

July 6, 2011 General Fiction, Harper Perennial, Review, Women's Fiction 7

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (June 28, 2011)  
  • ISBN-10: 0061963089
  • Source: Publisher

  • It’s 1969.  Atlanta-native Frances Ellerby is in Miami for a college-friend’s wedding.  She meets Marse Heiger, a free-spirited Miami-native.  Marse has her eyes on the handsome  Dennis DuVals, yet within a matter of time it is Frances and Dennis that fall in love on the dock of a stilt house. 

    Frances leaves her Atlanta life behind and moves to Miami. Within a year she and Dennis marry, ultimately having a daughter, Margo.  They continue their life together in Coral Gables, experiencing the typical ups and downs of marriage.  Dennis, a lawyer, despises his job. He’s depressed, wants to do more with his life. Margo is forced to go back to work.  She, too, questions her life, coming close to ruining their marriage. It is when she finds herself, her true purpose in life, that she finally reaches the happiness she’s been searching for all her life.

    Stiltsville is a wonderfully endearing tale of Frances & Dennis’ life; how they, along with their friends, change over time. The author so vividly depicts the characters: they are genuine, make real-life decisions and mistakes. The reader witnesses these choices in their lives and how it affects their future.

    Frances evolves from a young, naive girl into a strong, supportive mother.  Margo, at an early age, was intellectually superior to classmates her age.  After much debate, she advanced a grade at school. She was now in a class of students older than her, experiencing things she had yet to understand. Frances ensures that Margo learn from her mistakes and challenges just as she did, but maintaining her individuality is the core lesson she hopes Margo learns. After a particularly trying experience at a sleepover, Frances gives her daughter the following advice:

    ….no one should have the power to make her feel bad or ugly or embarrased, that she was the one to decide who could hurt her feelings and who could not.  I was just filling the air, of course; she knew well enough that this wasn’t true.  I hoped, however, that at some point she’d learn what is true: that although we like to believe we are our own islands, capable of protecting ourselves as well as sheltering and welcoming others, this i snever really the case.  Still, we must behave as if it is, and hope we can withstand the wills of other people more often than we cannot.

    I’m not ashamed to admit that I never thought I would fall for this book and its characters as much as I did. The book ends in 1993 and in this span of time, I bonded with the characters. I cheered their successes, I criticized them for some of their decisions.  By the end of the book, I was bawling.  Not the quiet crying that you can do without anyone noticing, but the chest-heaving sobs. Don’t let this lead you to believe this is a sad or depressing book, I not only cried for the characters losses but for what they gained in life as well.

    Daniel holds nothing back when she discusses Frances and Dennis’ marriage. She tells it how it is, doesn’t sugar coat any of the issues or problems that married couples face. Oftentimes in fiction, authors try to make marriage sound too unrealistic: marriage isn’t always happiness and love.  Arguments happen, feelings change. Frances & Dennis’ marriage was full of mistakes and challenges.  Daniel’s genuine depiction of adulthood, parenthood, friendship, and marriage is what made this book.  It is genuine, true-to-life, and without a doubt explains why I enjoyed it so much. 

    Several subplots and topics appear in this book, making it the perfect book club choice.  The gorgeous Florida setting would make it a perfect summer read as well.  Highly recommended.

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to participate in this tour.  You can connect with the author on her website, on Facebook, on Twitter.

    Please be sure to check out the other stops in this tour:

    Tuesday, June 28th: The Lost Entwife
    Wednesday, June 29th: BookNAround
    Thursday, June 30th: Life In Review
    Tuesday, July 5th: As I turn the pages
    Monday, July 11th: Colloquium
    Tuesday, July 12th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
    Wednesday, July 13th: Books Like Breathing
    Tuesday, July 19th: StephTheBookworm
    Wednesday, July 20th: Crazy for Books

    7 Responses to “Review: Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel”

    1. Kay

      Wasn’t this the most touching book? I read it last fall and still think about it. The last part made me cry too, for the very same reasons. I loved it.

    2. Lori Strongin
      Twitter: LStrongin

      Unfortunately, I think this is one I’ll pass on. As much as I love good characters, I’ve never been a fan of books that just chronicle the lives of people as they go through life’s ups and down. I love a good pageturner, and for me, I find character-based stories just don’t do make it.

    3. Beth(bookaholicmom)

      I am putting this on my must read list. I love a book that is so touching that it leaves an impression on the reader. Not to mention the setting has me curious as well.

    4. Amy
      Twitter: JustBookReading

      I put this on my list. I loved the description I read in another review (sounds like a place I’d like to visit) but yours made me want to read it because of the characters.