One sunny morning in 1969, near the end of her first trip to Miami, twenty-six-year-old Frances Ellerby finds herself in a place called Stiltsville, a community of houses built on pilings in the middle of Biscayne Bay.
It’s the first time the Atlanta native has been out on the open water, and she’s captivated. On the dock of a stilt house, with the dazzling skyline in the distance and the unknowable ocean beneath her, she meets the house’s owner, Dennis DuVal—and a new future reveals itself.
Turning away from her quiet, predictable life back home, Frances moves to Miami to be with Dennis. Over time, she earns the confidence of his wild-at-heart sister and wins the approval of his oldest friend. Frances and Dennis marry and have a child—but rather than growing complacent about their good fortune, they continue to face the challenges of intimacy, and of the complicated city they call home.
Stiltsville is the family’s island oasis—until suddenly it’s gone, and Frances is forced to figure out how to make her family work on dry land. Against a backdrop of lush tropical beauty, Frances and Dennis struggle with the mutability of love and Florida’s weather, and with temptation and chaos and disappointment.
But just when Frances thinks she’s reached some semblance of higher ground, she must confront an obstacle so great that all she’s learned about navigating the uncharted waters of family life can’t keep them afloat.
In Stiltsville, Susanna Daniel interweaves the beauty, chaos, and humanity of Miami as it comes of age with an enduring story of a marriage’s beginning, maturity, and heartbreaking demise.
After reading some heavier novels such as Precious and In the Sanctuary of Outcasts, I was really looking forward to losing myself in a light-hearted, easy to read fiction novel. When I saw Stiltsville advertised in an issue of Shelf Awareness, I placed a hold for the novel at my local library thinking this would be it! I had very high hopes for this novel, looking forward to another author’s debut. Unfortunately, I feel like I read the whole thing wondering where was the meat of the story?
Stiltsville follows Frances’ life as she meets Dennis, falls in love, gets married, and then lives life. And that is basically it in a nutshell. I found myself wondering where the mystery was, the big complex situation/problem, the action, the passion, the laughter, the intensity. None of that was found here as the novel slowly moves through mundane details of Frances’ life with Dennis and their daughter in increments of time. Skipping one, two, or six years between chapters, it feels like a very broad overview of what’s going on (with one side storyline that sort of died out and never went anywhere), all while providing nebulous details (a word used more than once in the story itself.) I never connected with Frances’ character and didn’t feel like she had much of a personality. The other characters and the situations in this novel left this reader longing for more and hoping it was on the next page.
I really hate not to have many glowing things to say about this novel as it’s Susanna Daniel’s debut. Stiltsville has been and continues to receive praise, but I just don’t see what the hype is about. I found this novel to be slow and uninteresting. I was hoping for something more.
My lack of words says it all. This book was just…eh.