Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel
Published by Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins
In 1969, when Frances Ellerby is in her early twenties, she’s visiting a friend in Stiltsville, a community of homes on stilts in Biscayne Bay, Florida, when she meets and falls for handsome Dennis DuVal. Within weeks Frances is absolutely smitten with Dennis and leaves her boring life in Atlanta for the exciting and exotic Miami and the home in Stiltsville that comes with her new husband. She and Dennis later have a child, and although their life together isn’t always perfect and they endure many tribulations, it’s these issues that, over time, only bind them closer together.
I’m not sure what made me decide to finally pick up Stiltsville – honestly I think it was the beautiful cover – but I’m so happy that I did. I’d heard a lot about this book for a while, and now that I’ve read it I can see what all the fuss is about. This novel is really a story about a long and mostly happy marriage, and although the book sounds very simple, really it’s so much more than just that.
More than anything else, this is a character study. And while Frances and Dennis are the characters the reader is focusing on, their marriage is almost a character as well. I haven’t read a book in a long time that examined marriage in such an honest way as Stiltsville does. These two characters go through some truly difficult things as a couple, and my emotions were all over the place as I was reading their story. It felt so real to me because it was written so beautifully, but also because these characters got into my heart and stayed there. I rooted for their marriage just as they did, and I worried about it when things got sticky.
The city of Miami was just as much a character in the novel as the people were, as well as the tiny town of Stiltsville. The ocean air, the humidity and heat, and the casual way of living that defines life in South Florida were so easy to understand by reading this novel. I’ve spent a little time in Miami, and although the culture has changed a bit since the time period of this book, I can attest to the fact that Stiltsville gets it right in many ways. The laid-back, lackadaisical attitude of many Floridians was depicted very well in this novel, and I loved getting to step into this way of life as I was reading the book.
I have to say that Stiltsville really got me emotionally. By the end of the novel, I was hanging on to every word and I even shed a few tears in certain places. This novel really does grab you and it made its way into my soul. This truly shows how talented Suanna Daniel is, and I would definitely love to read anything else she writes.
I would highly recommend Stiltsville. There are so many things to love about this novel – great writing, a fully developed sense of place, and characters that will stick with you for a long time.