Frances Ellerby is twenty-six the first time she travels to Miami from her home in Atlanta for a friend's wedding. It is 1969 and summer is in full swing. When she accepts an invitation from Marse, a new friend she met at the wedding, to spend a day at a place called Stiltsville, she had no idea how her life was about to change.
Frances learnss that Stiltsville is a group of several houses built on pilings in Biscayne Bay that is accessible only by boat and that is where Frances would meet her future husband, Dennis DuVal. His family owns one of the stilthouses and Frances falls in love with its quiet beauty.The attraction between Frances and Dennis is obvious and Frances soon relocates to Miami and within a year they wed. They spend a lot of time at Stiltsville and Frances quickly adapts to the easy way of life that living in Miami offers. Through the years we follow Frances as her life with Dennis takes many turns: the birth of their daughter, Margo, hurricanes and illness, all play big roles in their life together. As she gets older, Frances recalls moments that changed and defined her life. Stiltsville is a place that is special to this family and represents a way of life that not many people are fortunate enough to experience. For them, it is a symbol of family
STILTSVILLE is a great summer read. I live in Florida and it made me want to jump in the car and head south to Biscayne Bay to a stilthouse on the water. I could almost feel the calmness and quiet of the waves lapping gently against the pilings and feel the warmth of the sun beating on me through Daniel's writing. The story is told not in chapters but in sequences of time, representing important events in her life. Frances tells the story in a way that even though a lot of time is covered, it didn't get bogged down and moved along nicely. There were, however, a few times when the flashbacks were a bit long and I forgot the point the author was trying to make by sharing the memory in the first place. That said, it is an engrossing story that is very believable and well written.
The characters Daniel used are all very original and likable, although I never felt a closeness to Frances that I thought would develop through the book. She is a very nice lady who loves her family dearly, but I found her to be a bit standoffish, even cold at times. That's not to say I didn't like her because I did. I just didn't find her overly warm. And even though her relationship with her son-in-law was strained, I appreciated that she recognized his important role in the family and how much he helped out when needed. I really liked her relationship with Marse through the years and was glad their friendship withstood the test of time. Another favorite character was Bette, her sister-in-law. I was sad when she made the decision to move away from Miami with her partner.
Having lived in Florida for most of my life, many of the events Ms. Daniel mentioned in the book were very familiar to me, especially the student murders in Gainesville in 1990 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Gainesville is only 30 minutes from my home and I remember the fear that ran through the community while the murderer was being sought. She portrayed that event with great accuracy without it overtaking the story she was telling.
STILTSVILLE is very good womens fiction and tells a great story about love and family with loss and perseverance. It's a great first novel and I look forward to future books from her. Visit Susanna Daniel's website to learn more about the author, her book and to see some great photos of real stilthouses. Be sure to check out TLC Book Tours for more tour dates through October 11th.
I'd like to thank Lisa at TLC Book Tours and Harper Publishing for the opportunity to participate in this tour and for introducing me to such a promising new author. I recommend this book but will warn you - it will leave you yearning for the beach!
Author: Susanna Daniel
Published: August 2010