The Girls in the Stilt House
THE USA TODAY BESTSELLER!
"Remarkable debut.... [a] nearly flawless tale of loss, perseverance and redemption."—Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
Perfect for readers of Where The Crawdads Sing! Set in 1920s Mississippi, this debut Southern novel weaves a beautiful and harrowing story of two teenage girls cast in an unlikely partnership through murder.
Ada promised herself she would never go back to the Trace, to her hard life on the swamp and her harsh father. But now, after running away to Baton Rouge and briefly knowing a different kind of life, she finds herself with nowhere to go but back home. And she knows there will be a price to pay with her father.
Matilda, daughter of a sharecropper, is from the other side of the Trace. Doing what she can to protect her family from the whims and demands of some particularly callous locals is an ongoing struggle. She forms a plan to go north, to pack up the secrets she's holding about her life in the South and hang them on the line for all to see in Ohio.
As the two girls are drawn deeper into a dangerous world of bootleggers and moral corruption, they must come to terms with the complexities of their tenuous bond and a hidden past that links them in ways that could cost them their lives.
Praise For The Girls in the Stilt House: A Novel…
"Remarkable debut…. [a] nearly flawless tale of loss, perseverance and redemption." — Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"The two young women at the heart of this rich debut come of age under the hardest of circumstances, and Kelly Mustian has given us their world entire. We ache for their sorrows, we cheer for their victories, and we recognize both ourselves and our nation in their troubles and their hopes." — Jon Clinch, author of Marley and Finn
"Kelly Mustian’s THE GIRLS IN THE STILT HOUSE is a triumph, a heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting debut that’s as rich and lush as the Natchez Trace where the story takes place. Mustian’s lyrical prose combined with her deep insight into the resiliency of the human spirit make this novel shine. You know a book is good when you wish you’d written it!" — Karen Dionne, international bestselling author of The Marsh King’s Daughter
"In a world too cruel to make a place for them, Matilda and Ada become an army of two, fighting a war for their own refuge. This is a gripping novel about friendship, danger, isolation, and the vivid, dripping, moving landscape of a Mississippi swamp. If you loved Where the Crawdads Sing, you’ll love The Girls in the Stilt House." — Nina de Gramont, author of The Last September
"An astonishingly assured debut, The Girls in the Stilt House draws you in, holds you spellbound, and will move you to tears. With emotional impact and gut-wrenching power, this unforgettable novel is the best book I’ve read in a very long time, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one who thinks so. A triumph!" — Elizabeth Letts, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Finding Dorothy
"In prose that is stunning and assured, Kelly Mustian forges a powerful story of two young women, thrust together after unspeakable loss and devastation, and their courageous struggle to emerge from their darkest hours." — Jessica Keener, author of Strangers in Budapest, an Indie Next pick and Entertainment Weekly "best new book"
"The Girls in the Stilt House is a brilliantly researched, atmospheric page-turner. But best of all, it’s populated with characters you really care about. I devoured it in a single weekend, yet the novel’s haunting spell remained with me long after." — Kate Moore, New York Times bestselling author of The Radium Girls and the upcoming The Woman They Could Not Silence
"Classic Southern reading." — Library Journal
Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781728217710, 384pp.
Publication Date: April 6, 2021
About the Author
KELLY MUSTIAN is the author of The Girls in the Stilt House, which Publishers Weekly calls "a remarkable debut" and "a nearly flawless tale of loss, perseverance, and redemption." Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and commercial magazines, and she is a past recipient of a Blumenthal Writers Award and a Regional Artist Grant from the North Carolina Arts and Science Council. She is originally from Natchez, Mississippi, and currently lives near the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. How did you feel about Ada’s return to the Natchez Trace? Why do you think she decided to come back? Do you think there were any other choices that she didn’t consider?
2. Describe Matilda and Ada’s relationship after their first fraught night together. Who is in charge? How are their actions shaped by Virgil’s lingering presence?
3. Why do you think Matilda insists that Ada call Gertie “Miss Tuttle”? How would you characterize the relationship between Matilda and Gertie throughout the story?
4. What did you think of Peggy Creedle? Is there a difference between how she treats Matilda and how she treats Ada? How do her whims shape the story?
5. Think about Virgil Morgan and Frank Bowers. Are they comparable villains? How does social class affect their actions and demands? What did you think of their ultimate ends?
6. Why do you think Matilda withholds so much information from Ada?
7. Teensy always looks for something beautiful in her day, even if she ends up being grateful for something very small. What do you think of that philosophy? How do Matilda’s feelings toward the practice evolve throughout the book?
8. Matilda blames herself for losing Dalton and Annis to the fire. How does that guilt motivate her? Do you think she ever forgives herself fully?
9. Describe the events that lead to Ada accepting the housekeeping job from Frank. Can you imagine something similar happening today?
10. By the end of the book, how has the relationship between Ada and Matilda changed since their first meeting?