One sunny morning in 1969, near the end of her first trip to Miami, 26-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 DuValand, 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 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, as well as temptation, chaos, and disappointment. But just when Frances thinks she's reached some semblance of higher ground, she must confront an obstacle so great that even the lessons she's learned about navigating the uncharted waters of family life can't keep them afloat.
With Stiltsville, Susanna Daniel weaves the beauty, violence, and humanity of Miami's coming-of-age with an enduring story of a marriage's beginning, maturity, and heartbreaking demise. Suzanne Toren's limpid narration perfectly complements Daniel's incandescent prose.
What is most satisfying about a novel like Stiltsville is the opportunity to travel and immerse yourself in a region that may not be familiar. If you’ve never been to Miami, you’ll relish in the experience of the ocean, the hot weather, and the sultry culture of southern Florida. Suzanne Toren narrates Susanna Daniel’s debut novel, guiding us through this portrait of a family in progress, growing up together on the sandy shores of Stiltsville, a community of stilt houses in Miami.
When 26-year-old Frances Ellerby ventured down to Miami for a friend’s wedding, she didn’t expect that she’d wind up spending the rest of her days in the southern-most state. But after just one weekend, she fell in love with the sun-soaked city and with native Floridian Dennis DuVal. Stiltsville is a portrait of their marriage, from the weekend they fell in love at Dennis’ stilt house to the birth of their daughter Margo and to an imminent and devastating conclusion. Daniels examines the challenges of Frances and Dennis’ swiftly developed romance with an inquiring, discerning eye, and the growing city of Miami serves as a striking backdrop peppered with influential historical events.
Toren’s rendition is warm and inviting, like the community of friends and family Frances stumbles upon and grows old with in Stiltsville. Through her elongated vowels and soothing inflection, Toren brings the experience of the Stiltsville community to the listener, serving up an intuitively regional experience so palpable you’ll hear the ocean behind the deep drawl of her Floridian accent. Suzanne Day
"This soulful novel will inspire you to reflect on your own definitions of house, home, and what really makes a couple close." (Redbook)
"Both structurally and in tone, the book recalls linked short-story collections such as Alice Munro's The Beggar Maid, following one character chronologically through a long period. Each piece can stand alone, but the whole is enriched when they are read together…. Lovely." (Laura C. J. Owen, Minneapolis Star Tribune)
"A deeply engrossing tale of love, family, friendship, and motherhood, Stiltsville is both an elegantly crafted work of art and a great read. The love story effortlessly spans decades, and the characters are as real and vivid as the novel's South Florida backdrop. Susanna Daniel is an extraordinary writer." (Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Prep and American Wife)
"Susanna Daniel offers an understated but compelling human story that carries with it the distinctive character of life in southern Florida. Narrator Suzanne Toren's voice is as rich and honeyed as the slow, sunny days that paint the backdrop for this appealing chronicle of a life and a marriage. Her soft drawl immediately establishes the persona of Frances, the main character, and remains convincing through the unfolding of the quiet dramas and passions that listeners will recognize as common to the passage from youth to middle age. Minor variations of tone and intensity produce smooth transitions and create credible identities for the characters. The skillful presentation of this satisfying novel gives the listener a delicious treat." (AudioFile)
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boring, slow, and... who cares?!
Miami since 1968 is the star of this book to me. An insightful and touching journey through a marriage.
- Karin Dorsett