Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Harper Perennial. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
The hook that looped itself around my mind and drew me into Susanna Daniel's Stiltsville was learning that such a community--built over the water--really exists, and that Daniel's own family owned one of those houses when she was a girl. What kept me interested was the intimate examination of a marriage and family. This month Harper Perennial is releasing the novel in paperback, complete with the P.S. section that fans of the imprint love.
Here's the publisher's summary:
One sunny morning in 1969, 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 Miami skyline in the distance, she meets the house's owner, Dennis DuVal—and a new future reveals itself.Author Daniel described her novel as a fictional memoir, and it is that style that helps make the book seem so personal. It is in simple terms the story of a long-term marriage. But the deeper truth is that Frances and Dennis are not perfect, and their life is not always filled with rainbows. Daniel's characters are more real than that; they are people you come to know and care about so deeply you may forget you're reading a novel. The sense of truth is supported by the background of historic events and the very real setting of Miami.
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 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 in the complicated city they call home.
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.
I was particularly struck by something Daniel said in an interview with Laura Valeri at Fiction Writers Review:
Stiltsville is a perfect setting for fiction, and it’s shocking to me that no one has ever placed a women’s novel there. For one thing, when you put your characters together on an island, they speak more plainly to each other than anywhere else. Things come to the surface. Also, family life is all about living together on an island, navigating choppy waters, and standing together when everything crumbles around you.Most reviewers have commented on Daniel's beautiful writing and on the emotional connections they were able to make with the characters. Here are some examples:
- Nomad Reader said: "It's the most emotionally engaging novel I've read in quite some time. I often struggle writing reviews for books I adore, and I found nothing to criticize in Stiltsville."
- Ellen Kanner, writing for the Miami Herald, concluded: "Daniel renders Frances and her family so authentically, their dynamics and quirks come to feel utterly familiar and endearing. Deceptively placid Stiltsville reminds us, like Frances, to appreciate the small but potent magic in everyday life."
- Kathy at Bermuda Onion's Weblog wrote: "The writing is magnificent in this story of love--between friends, parents and children, and spouses. . . . I found myself lost in Daniel’s words and became emotionally involved."
Harper Perennial is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.