“The Girls in the Stilt House” Review

The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian is a very moving and intense historical fiction novel – Mustian’s first! It is full of memorable characters and vivid descriptions of the murky, swampy land in Mississippi called “The Trace.” (Here is a link to some historical facts about this area . . . “The Trace”) The novel is set in the 1920’s where there is racial injustice, economic hardship, moonshining, sharecroppers, murder, despair and redemption and hope for the future.

The characters are the heart and soul of this story. Ada is white and the daughter of a trapper, living in a rundown stilt house in the swamp. Matilda is a black sharecropper’s daughter living on the outskirts of the swamp. The teens are very different but a death brings them together and their lives become entwined. Ada and Matilda both dream of rising above their poverty and finding a future outside of The Trace. At one point, Gertie, the midwife, tells them, “You find a way, is what you do.” 

Don’t give up on this book in the first few chapters – it really grew on me once I got to know the characters and got pulled into their story. The writing is so descriptive and I loved the ending of the story. After finishing it, I found myself thinking about the story again – admiring Ada and Matilda and the hardships they had to overcome. (I hope that Kelly Mustian plans to write more novels!) This would be a great book club book!

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