Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel begins in 1969 and spans several decades, ending in 1993. Set in Miami, Daniel's description of life in this time in Florida were so vivid, I felt as though I could see her characters living out the story. I can't quite lay my finger on what I loved so much about this book, but I absolutely loved it and couldn't put it down.
First of all, I really enjoy women's fiction books, and Stiltsville is that, following the life of twenty six year old Frances from her move to Miami in 1969, to her relationship and then marriage to Dennis, their years raising their daughter, and then Dennis' diagnosis of ALS. Frances was easy to identify with - someone who loved her husband and led a fairly "average" life, a good life, with the usual ups and downs in her marriage, the normal struggles that people face. Throughout the novel she grew and changed, from a young woman to a wife and mother, and finally a caregiver. The Miami setting was beautiful. While I have only been to Florida a couple of time in my life, I could envision what Daniel described, and was especially intrigued by the stilt house in Biscayne Bay where Frances and Dennis spent their free time.
As Frances reflects on her life, she is happy with how things turned out. One favorite passage from Stiltsville:
"I love this photograph. All these years, I've loved it. And one day my daughter found it in a chest filled with other old photographs, and she framed it and propped it up on her bookcase, first in her dorm room and then in her home. Once I overheard her pointing it out to a friend: "These are my parents," she said. "This is my aunt Bette, and this is my mother's best friend Marse." In the way old photos sometimes do, looking at it makes my heart ache a bit. But I also enjoy remembering my younger self this way: as an adventurer, as carefree. Mostly, I don't think I was these things, but I guess sometimes, in Miami, I could be (59)."
While Stiltsville's ending is not happy, it is not sad, either, and Daniel has managed to create closure to Frances' story that was quite satisfying. I so hope that Daniel has plans for more work in the future, because Stiltsville is one of my favorite women's fiction books I have read in 2010.
Visit Susanna Daniel's website.