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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—perfect for readers of Where the Crawdads Sing and If the Creek Don't Rise. 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 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—perfect for readers of Where the Crawdads Sing and If the Creek Don't Rise. 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.


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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—perfect for readers of Where the Crawdads Sing and If the Creek Don't Rise. 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 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—perfect for readers of Where the Crawdads Sing and If the Creek Don't Rise. 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.

30 review for The Girls in the Stilt House: A Novel

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kari

    My Review of THE GIRLS IN THE STILT HOUSE By Author, Kelly Mustian Gifted & Published by @Bookmarked On Sale: 4/6/21- Link In Bio ****** I absolutely loved this book. Need I say more. It had everything that keeps you turning the pages again and again until you reach the end, where you then feel like crying because you didn’t want to leave Trace and the people you met. When you meet the main protagonists, it’s like an instant magnetic pull. You can’t help but adore them and their flaws. No matter what My Review of THE GIRLS IN THE STILT HOUSE By Author, Kelly Mustian Gifted & Published by @Bookmarked On Sale: 4/6/21- Link In Bio ****** I absolutely loved this book. Need I say more. It had everything that keeps you turning the pages again and again until you reach the end, where you then feel like crying because you didn’t want to leave Trace and the people you met. When you meet the main protagonists, it’s like an instant magnetic pull. You can’t help but adore them and their flaws. No matter what they are up to, you have their back. Now the antagonist on the other hand has the personality of a fish; wet, slimy and slips your grip. There is something fishy about them. The writing was not only meaningful but memorable. You learn that the strongest bonds formed aren’t always blood and actually are by the ones you’d least suspect. ***** Ada returns to the swamp after leaving her father a year ago. He isn’t too pleased that she ran off without any warning and she is unhappy to be back where her mother and siblings passed away. Her father takes everything out on her; especially when he’s drinking which is daily. She knows he’s up to no good but she has no one to turn to. Until one night her father puts her life at risk and there appears a neighbor, Matilda. She helps Ada out and gets her back on her feet then decides she wouldn’t leave Ada but help her with the burdens coming ahead. The fact that Ada is white and Matilda is black leaves for an exchange of the past that will melt your heart and sympathize with their souls. Both have secrets and it’s priority to keep them that way. Because if the past catches up with Matilda, both she and Ada could be in real danger.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sara McKee

    I found this novel sad and hopeful, haunting and thought-provoking. The author's depiction of the beauty and brutality of the Trace and the characters desperately trying to live their best lives there pulled me in and wouldn't let me go. I quickly became deeply invested in the outcomes for both Ada and Matilda, and did not want to put the book down. The complexity of their relationship had me on an emotional rollercoaster, but I was rooting for them both! Although the novel takes place in 1920s I found this novel sad and hopeful, haunting and thought-provoking. The author's depiction of the beauty and brutality of the Trace and the characters desperately trying to live their best lives there pulled me in and wouldn't let me go. I quickly became deeply invested in the outcomes for both Ada and Matilda, and did not want to put the book down. The complexity of their relationship had me on an emotional rollercoaster, but I was rooting for them both! Although the novel takes place in 1920s Mississippi, the issues of race, social status, and relationships remain relevant, and resonate strongly with me as I reflect upon what is happening in our society today. I can't wait to share this book with our book clubs at the library!  

  3. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I received this ARC and it was given as "if you like Where the Crawdads Sing..." It did have similar vibes, but no book is like Crawdads. The book opens with Ada and Matilda deep in the woods with possibly a dead body. Part I is Ada's story and part II is Matilda's story. One girl is white and one is black in 1920s Mississippi. This is not my normal read. There are a lot of bad things that happen. Several murders. I really thought it would give me nightmares, but at the same time I had to know h I received this ARC and it was given as "if you like Where the Crawdads Sing..." It did have similar vibes, but no book is like Crawdads. The book opens with Ada and Matilda deep in the woods with possibly a dead body. Part I is Ada's story and part II is Matilda's story. One girl is white and one is black in 1920s Mississippi. This is not my normal read. There are a lot of bad things that happen. Several murders. I really thought it would give me nightmares, but at the same time I had to know how it all would end. I had to know the girls would make it out alright.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    As a reader, my favorite genres are Southern fiction and historical fiction -- The Girls in the Stilt house is a win/win because it falls into both genres...plus it's a fantastic debut from a new author. The story flows so well and the setting is so real, that it is almost difficult to believe that this is a debut. Some parts of this book were difficult to read especially the racism that existed in Mississippi in the 1920s and the hardships that the poor had to live in were both difficult to rea As a reader, my favorite genres are Southern fiction and historical fiction -- The Girls in the Stilt house is a win/win because it falls into both genres...plus it's a fantastic debut from a new author. The story flows so well and the setting is so real, that it is almost difficult to believe that this is a debut. Some parts of this book were difficult to read especially the racism that existed in Mississippi in the 1920s and the hardships that the poor had to live in were both difficult to read but they were also very accurate. This novel had three main characters: -Ada grew up in the swamp. Her mother died when she was young, her father is a mean and vicious man who makes his living as a trapper and is even nastier when he's drunk. Ada ran away from home to live with a man who ended up breaking her heart. She had no choice but to return to her father's house. She didn't realize that she was pregnant until her father discovered it. She has to learn to depend on other people to help her. -Matilda is a share croppers daughter. Unlike Ada, she has a wonderful but very poor family. Her parents work hard in hopes of someday buying their own land to farm and she tries to protect them from some of the racist local people. Her father also helps to distribute moonshine from the local bootlegger even though it could put him in a lot of trouble, he feels like it adds more money to the family dream. Matilda is outspoken and has a dream of moving north to Ohio and getting away from the cruel people who work to keep her in her place. -The third main character that makes this book so wonderful is not a person - instead its the setting of the Natchez Trace. The swamp is described so well that you feel like you are there with Ada and Matilda. The novel is made even better by using this setting to the point that it become one of the major parts of the story. The swamp is both beautiful and threatening to the people who live there. Will Ada and Matilda ever get their dreams fulfilled as they fight together or will their lives remain in the dark, dismal swamp? For me this book had it all - strong female friendships, a bit of a mystery and the fact that a family isn't necessarily the people that you share blood with - the strongest family is made up of the people you love and care about. Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Historical Fiction

    Teenager Ada Morgan has just done what she had sworn she would never do. She’s returning to the Trace after a disastrous year-long affair with a traveling musician who swept her off her feet and to Baton Rouge until he informed her that he was moving back to Texas to be with his family. Little did he know that he had started his own family with Ada, whom he left completely bereft and a few months pregnant with his child. In 1923, there are zero resources for a young woman in trouble. In addition Teenager Ada Morgan has just done what she had sworn she would never do. She’s returning to the Trace after a disastrous year-long affair with a traveling musician who swept her off her feet and to Baton Rouge until he informed her that he was moving back to Texas to be with his family. Little did he know that he had started his own family with Ada, whom he left completely bereft and a few months pregnant with his child. In 1923, there are zero resources for a young woman in trouble. In addition to dealing with the Trace’s nearly impenetrable swamps, Ada must face her cruel and sadistic father, Virgil, who takes his rage out on whichever unfortunate soul is nearest. She will have to do her penance and take his vicious retribution because she is a girl out of options: “Ada knew her father well enough to know he was biding his time, the same as when he was stalking a deer or hand fishing for catfish. He would not lose the prize by striking too soon or going about things in the wrong way, the prize, in this case, Ada, his daughter come home shamed and needy and looking to him. He needed time in the woods to work out how he was going to humble her up…” Ever since her mother’s death, Ada doesn’t have anyone in her corner, but recently someone left her a sign indicating that she may not be alone after all. Matilda Patterson is the 16-year-old daughter of sharecropper Dalton and his wife, Teensy. They live on the other side of the Trace, where the population is mostly the Black people who toil on local farms. Dalton works on Curtis Creedle’s farm, and his dream is to eventually buy his own piece of land for his family. To do this, he has to make a deal with the devil. He agrees to store and deliver illegal moonshine to locals for his boss, who promises to forgive his debt at the end of one year. Matilda herself has dreams of joining her friend, Rainey, in Cleveland, Ohio, where Rainey has an uncle who owns and runs a Black newspaper. She has been saving every dime she can by taking on extra work in addition to what she’s been doing in the fields. This move will have to wait until her mother delivers her latest baby and is back up on her feet. But when a violent incident propels these two girls together, plans to leave are jettisoned and replaced with the simple act of survival. They decide to join forces out of necessity. Matilda tells Ada, “I’m needing a place to stay. And I figure anybody four months on and blind to it is somebody going to be needing some help.” She and Gertie, the local midwife, can help Ada prepare for her baby. With her brash confidence and knowledge, Ada is “in awe of Matilda. She felt as if a switch had been turned on inside herself the moment Matilda showed up. With Matilda, life had new possibilities. Life itself seemed a possibility.” But for Matilda, the swamp just holds her down. Even though they are both poor, there are advantages to Ada’s porcelain skin: “Matilda tried to find her own way between the two of them, a way around all those low expectations, but there wasn’t a path to anywhere that she could see from where she was. The problem --- one of the problems, as she saw it --- was that a person, at least a person in her own circumstances, couldn’t have a respectable dream in a place like this.” But Ada needs help, and Matilda needs a place to lay low, for reasons that Ada will find out later. At this moment in 1920s backwoods Mississippi, quite possibly no two people need each other more. It is amazing to think that THE GIRLS IN THE STILT HOUSE is Kelly Mustian’s debut novel as it is so expertly crafted and assuredly told. Her artful descriptions of the landscape leave readers feeling the humidity and smelling the moss. The perilous story of these two young ladies has shades of Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and much like the racial issues that Scout and Jem faced in that classic, Ada and Matilda are navigating these dangerous waters themselves. It’s hard not to draw parallels to today’s Black Lives Matter movement: “She tried to hold back the hot tears that came. Tears that came because she was angry, she insisted to herself. Not afraid. Not broken. Angry.” If you’re looking for a worthy successor to WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, look no further than THE GIRLS IN THE STILT HOUSE. Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller

  6. 5 out of 5

    Di

    This is a compelling story about 2 young girls living together in the swamps of Louisiana, in a house built on stilts. One of the girls is white and the other is African American. It takes place in the 1920s, so race is an element in this story. The book is divided into three parts. The first is Ada, the young white girl. The next part focuses on Matilda. Finally, the last part is alternately about both of them. They have formed a tenuous relationship. They both come from similar circumstances. This is a compelling story about 2 young girls living together in the swamps of Louisiana, in a house built on stilts. One of the girls is white and the other is African American. It takes place in the 1920s, so race is an element in this story. The book is divided into three parts. The first is Ada, the young white girl. The next part focuses on Matilda. Finally, the last part is alternately about both of them. They have formed a tenuous relationship. They both come from similar circumstances. The way they come together takes a while to come to light. The setting is almost a character in this book. The author makes the swamp seem to be a living, breathing entity. The descriptive passages become visual in my mind. The characters are extremely well developed. There are a couple of characters who are totally evil and despicable. Matilda is a huge enigma when we first meet her but the layers are slowly peeled away. Ada is withdrawn and timid due to the life she has been born into. There is a midwife with the wisdom that comes with age. Every other character is well defined though they are minor players. Parts of the book are heart-wrenching. There is an element of mystery, there is friendship, there is bootlegging, there is murder, there is danger. Racial issues and inequality are part of the story. There is something on every page that keeps the reader going. As many of the reviewers have mentioned, it is hard to believe that this is the first book by this author. She put her heart and soul into it. I look forward to what comes next. The Girls in the Stilt House is a perfect book for anyone who likes southern historical fiction. I think that fans of Where the Crawdads Sing would also like this one. I received a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Karren Sandercock

    Ada Morgan regretfully returns to her father Virgil’s cabin in the Trace, he lives in the creepy swamp in Mississippi, where he traps animals for a living and she ran away a year ago. She arrives home to a mess, the cabin is filthy and she cleans it up while nervously waiting for her father to return home. Living in Baton Rouge with Jesse was fun, she’s come home to face the music and her father is a very nasty man. Matilda Patterson, is a colored sharecropper’s daughter, they live on the other s Ada Morgan regretfully returns to her father Virgil’s cabin in the Trace, he lives in the creepy swamp in Mississippi, where he traps animals for a living and she ran away a year ago. She arrives home to a mess, the cabin is filthy and she cleans it up while nervously waiting for her father to return home. Living in Baton Rouge with Jesse was fun, she’s come home to face the music and her father is a very nasty man. Matilda Patterson, is a colored sharecropper’s daughter, they live on the other side of the Trace and she dreams of having a better life. Her father Dalton works hard, he does what he’s told by his boss and he has no choice. Some nasty business goes on in the area with bootleggers, various people are involved, willingly or not, it’s illegal and they will do anything not to get caught. One night the two girl meet, Ada and Matilda are bound together by witnessing a death, they keep it a secret and was it murder? Matilda is wary of white folks, she doesn’t want to get involved with Ada and she has no one else to help her. The two girls make an unlikely duo, just when Ada thinks she can drag herself out of poverty, Matilda vanishes, the whole situation becomes complicated again and it’s extremely dangerous. The Girls in the Stilt House has a plot full of twists and turns and it involves secrets, murder, racial tension and it kept me engrossed from the start. It also had some really lovely characters, I liked Gertie the midwife, Flora the shop keeper, Pastor Brown and the undertaker Mr. Lewis. It would be a great book club read, thanks to Edelweiss for my copy and five stars from me. https://karrenreadsbooks.blogspot.com/

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shirley McAllister

    You Find a Way, Is What You Do Oh! This book was so good. Historical fiction southern style 1920's Natchez Trace. Right in the middle of Mississippi black vs white. White landowner's, black sharecroppers, moonshining, greed, murder and mayhem. Right in the middle you have an elderly midwife, two teenage girls and some of the meanest men on earth. These girls in the stilt house are terrorized by these men until they take matters into their own hands and must harbor horrible secrets. What they know You Find a Way, Is What You Do Oh! This book was so good. Historical fiction southern style 1920's Natchez Trace. Right in the middle of Mississippi black vs white. White landowner's, black sharecroppers, moonshining, greed, murder and mayhem. Right in the middle you have an elderly midwife, two teenage girls and some of the meanest men on earth. These girls in the stilt house are terrorized by these men until they take matters into their own hands and must harbor horrible secrets. What they know they can't tell, but what they know could get them killed. It is about dreams of the young and the shattering of those dreams . About the carrying on when you don't have the strength to go on . It is a story of hope, of despair and redemption. This story is of the survival of women when they have no means of survival. It is of a human being pushed to the limit and beyond. It is of the ability to rebound from horrible tragedy and regain a life. It is about how some people risk it all to help other's. I could smell the swamps, feel the rain and the wind blowing on the beach. The surroundings were vividly described I could almost feel like I was there. From the first chapter to the last I could not put this book down. It was that good. I would recommend it. Thanks to Kelly Mustian, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for granting my wish and allowing me to read an advanced copy of the book for an honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    My blood boiled and I was raging at the moon. Not fair, so inhuman, this book evokes so many harsh and angry thoughts. The real tragedy is that so many women and men have had to endure the situations and experiences described in this book. Set in 1923 it would be a balm to be able to say with certainty “that was then, things are different now.” But are they? As disturbing as the story is it is not without wisdom, deep reflection, and genuine caring between the women, who find themselves with not My blood boiled and I was raging at the moon. Not fair, so inhuman, this book evokes so many harsh and angry thoughts. The real tragedy is that so many women and men have had to endure the situations and experiences described in this book. Set in 1923 it would be a balm to be able to say with certainty “that was then, things are different now.” But are they? As disturbing as the story is it is not without wisdom, deep reflection, and genuine caring between the women, who find themselves with nothing, nowhere to go and no one to care about them. Ada is simple, sweet and basically clueless about everything to do with the circumstances of being left behind by her first love. With no options she returns to the Trace, the swamp, “the utter end of a dismal world”. Mathilda, never experiencing anywhere but the forest and infamous swamp of Mississippi, has all the common sense and cunning that Ada is lacking but whether she can or will save them both is suspect from day to day. The story pits these child-women against the harsh realities of living in the deepest part of the South with few options but to wake up each day and find a way forward together or apart. Kelly Mustian has written an emotion packed debut novel filled with wonderful descriptions of the Natchez Trace and the sharecroppers, trappers and bootleggers who inhabited it in the early part of the Twentieth Century. Thank you NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for a copy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Claire Talbot

    Really enjoyed this book - Kelly Mustan grew up in "the Trace" of Mississippi, and the place becomes a character in her debut novel. The characters of Ada, Matilda, and Gertie the midwife were well developed. Matilda is a sharecropper's daughter who is forced to grow up before her time. Her mother is pregnant, her father is trying to work off his debt, and earning extra money by running illegal alcohol during Prohibition. As a young black woman, Matilda sees the violence that rains upon all blac Really enjoyed this book - Kelly Mustan grew up in "the Trace" of Mississippi, and the place becomes a character in her debut novel. The characters of Ada, Matilda, and Gertie the midwife were well developed. Matilda is a sharecropper's daughter who is forced to grow up before her time. Her mother is pregnant, her father is trying to work off his debt, and earning extra money by running illegal alcohol during Prohibition. As a young black woman, Matilda sees the violence that rains upon all blacks in Mississippi when they try to rise up above the injustices they endure on a daily basis. On a trip to town, Matilda witnesses a young black man knocked into the mud while trying to protect his wife - not long afterwards, the man is found dead. While working her multiple jobs, Matilda sees too much and witnesses bootleg theft and learns about a murder. When her own family suffers, Matilda runs away and meets with Ada. Ada is poor white river trash, whose mother died when she was 9, and her father in abusive and an alcoholic. Ada runs away with a carnival musician named Jesse, who leaves her after a year. She returns home, not even realizing she is pregnant, and faces the wrath of her father. When her father tries to punish Ada the same way he did her mother, Matilda steps in and saves her. The two girls are bound by murder and secrets - and develop a complicated friendship. Thank you to Netgalley for an advanced copy of the book!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Addie BookCrazyBlogger

    Ada is a poor-white trash sixteen year old living in the swamps of Mississippi in 1923, after having returned to her daddy’s house, following a year long affair in Baton Rouge. Her father is abusive and mean, intent on locking her in the house and killing her, just like he did with her mother, when she was fixin’ to leave him, with Ada. Ada’s rescued by a Black woman, Matilda, who confirms her pregnancy and helps murder her father, then covers it up. Matilda is a sharecroppers daughter who is de Ada is a poor-white trash sixteen year old living in the swamps of Mississippi in 1923, after having returned to her daddy’s house, following a year long affair in Baton Rouge. Her father is abusive and mean, intent on locking her in the house and killing her, just like he did with her mother, when she was fixin’ to leave him, with Ada. Ada’s rescued by a Black woman, Matilda, who confirms her pregnancy and helps murder her father, then covers it up. Matilda is a sharecroppers daughter who is desperate to make it out of Mississippi and up to Ohio, where she can find freedom from the Deep South. These two young women’s lives converge into one another’s and suddenly are forced to depend on each other for survival, especially as bootleggers attempt to cash in debts. Wow, what a book. I really enjoyed the way the novel was broken up into Ada’s story and then Matilda’s story. This book covers a host of issues: class issues, racism, bootlegging in the 1920’s and sharecropper rights. It was definitely a compelling story, although I found myself having much more sympathy for Matilda, rather than Ada, simply because Ada was kind of this naive, dumb white woman, who expected Matilda to become her sister. Like good lord woman, open your eyes to the race situation.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ann Boytim

    had such a hard life living in the swamp in the Traqce especially after her mother died in a tragic fire. Ada was a young girl and had a mean and hateful father who made his living trapping and then getting drunk on homemade liquor. Ada runs away with a young man but after a year this young man decides he must return to Texas and to live with his family and a girl he has always known. Ada has no where to turn but to go back to the swamp and does not realize she is pregnant. When she arrives home had such a hard life living in the swamp in the Traqce especially after her mother died in a tragic fire. Ada was a young girl and had a mean and hateful father who made his living trapping and then getting drunk on homemade liquor. Ada runs away with a young man but after a year this young man decides he must return to Texas and to live with his family and a girl he has always known. Ada has no where to turn but to go back to the swamp and does not realize she is pregnant. When she arrives home the hut they live in is in a deplorable condition but Ada sets to and cleans up and waits for her father to return. Of course he is verbally abusive and makes her sleep in the shed and looks at her as a slut and sets out to do the same as he did to his wife and tries to burn her but she is saved by an unknown young woman who actually kills her father. This secret binds the two together and Mattie and Ada work together to make a life in the swamp for when the baby comes. Mattie also has a sad past and wants to get away the two see what danger they are in with bootleggers around them and will this friendship last - are they doomed to live a life of poverty in the swamp with their deadly secrets.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    This is such a gripping story. Set in 1920s Mississippi, along the Trace, the characters are dealing with issues of race, social status and poverty. Ada's father is an abuser, striking out at whatever comes close to him, including his wife, his daughter, any animal he comes in contact with, just a totally unlikable character. Ada, his daughter, runs away after her mother dies, and returns some time later because she has no place else to go. Matilda lives at the other end of the road, and she has This is such a gripping story. Set in 1920s Mississippi, along the Trace, the characters are dealing with issues of race, social status and poverty. Ada's father is an abuser, striking out at whatever comes close to him, including his wife, his daughter, any animal he comes in contact with, just a totally unlikable character. Ada, his daughter, runs away after her mother dies, and returns some time later because she has no place else to go. Matilda lives at the other end of the road, and she has also dealt with her share of difficulties, compounded by the fact that she is Black. Ada and Matilda strike up an unusual friendship, and it becomes dangerous because of the racial divide. One will read this book with their heart pounding, hoping against hope that everything will work out for both the girls and for Ada's little girl. Matilda has a community of people to fill at least some of her needs, from her parents to the healer/midwife to the pastor. Ada, on the other hand, has no one, except those who care for Matilda, and so by extension, are willing to help Ada. I received an e-book ARC from NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark Books, in exchange for a review.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Erin Loranger

    Thank you to NetGalley and Soucebooks Landmark for the opportunity to read this book so that I may provide an honest review. Author Kelly Mustain paints a highly evocative picture in her setting of The Trace in 1920's Mississippi. As Mustian mentions in her very thoughtful Author's Note, she intended for the setting to be a character and she certainly succeeded in doing that. I loved how Mustain opened the book with a powerful scene that left me with so many questions about the two man characters Thank you to NetGalley and Soucebooks Landmark for the opportunity to read this book so that I may provide an honest review. Author Kelly Mustain paints a highly evocative picture in her setting of The Trace in 1920's Mississippi. As Mustian mentions in her very thoughtful Author's Note, she intended for the setting to be a character and she certainly succeeded in doing that. I loved how Mustain opened the book with a powerful scene that left me with so many questions about the two man characters' back stories, which she goes on to flesh out through flash backs and strong supporting characters. As Ada and Matilda's unlikely friendship develops, many themes are explored that are as relevant to today as they were in the 1920's - racism, lack of opportunity and socio-economic inequality to name a few. The story is fast-paced and was hard to put down. I found the ending a satisfying pay-off for my investment in Ada and Matilda. Thank you Kelly Mustain. I think this would make an excellent book for a reading club and look forward to recommending it widely!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Reeca Elliott

    Ada has returned home to her horrible father. She has no where else to turn. This is where she has to go. When their reunion turns out worse than she expected and her life ends up in danger, she is saved by someone she has never met, Matilda. These two young girls end up depending on each other more than they ever expected. When I first saw this book…I knew I had to read it. I mean…it is set is Mississippi! And oh boy…it did not disappoint. Ada and Matilda are both poor and struggling in their own Ada has returned home to her horrible father. She has no where else to turn. This is where she has to go. When their reunion turns out worse than she expected and her life ends up in danger, she is saved by someone she has never met, Matilda. These two young girls end up depending on each other more than they ever expected. When I first saw this book…I knew I had to read it. I mean…it is set is Mississippi! And oh boy…it did not disappoint. Ada and Matilda are both poor and struggling in their own way. These two could not be more different and yet they are more alike than they think. They need each other due to various circumstances. (And you will have to read about these circumstances!) Just when you think they are about to come out of their lot in life…life kicks them back down. This book is everything and then some. I could not stop reading. This story is intense, heart wrenching, poignant and captivating all rolled into one. If you need a FANTASTIC book…THIS IS IT! I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Becky Motew

    4.3 stars A very absorbing read and a thrilling adventure! Two girls are hiding out in rural 1923 Mississippi, although only one knows why. Their house is built on stilts to keep it up out of the swamp but creatures get in anyway and the hardscrabble merciless life that it entails gets in too. Racial injustice, ignorance and brutal poverty make the general misogyny of the era seem almost tame by comparison. But the girls hunker down. They keep their hopes and their goals. One is smart and one not 4.3 stars A very absorbing read and a thrilling adventure! Two girls are hiding out in rural 1923 Mississippi, although only one knows why. Their house is built on stilts to keep it up out of the swamp but creatures get in anyway and the hardscrabble merciless life that it entails gets in too. Racial injustice, ignorance and brutal poverty make the general misogyny of the era seem almost tame by comparison. But the girls hunker down. They keep their hopes and their goals. One is smart and one not so smart, one gives birth and one keeps life going until past events come around out of the darkness and threaten to lay savage waste to their plans. Ada and Matilda do it all with a mule and a wagon and a whole lot of back breaking work, sweat and cleverness. The audacity of youth keeps the world going. This isn't a primrose pretty plantation story and there is plenty of horribleness, scenes that you know are coming and that you dread. But you just have to know what happens. And isn't that the mark of a really good book? I say yes.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    Favorite quotes: She had heard it said that children who lose their mothers early are childlike for the rest of their lives. As it happened, she had overheard those words on the morning of her mother’s burial, whispered by the preacher’s wife to the preacher, who had cast a doubtful glance at nine-year-old Ada. There was no one to tell her what to do, and she had no experience with making plans of her own. She had long believed, though she realized it only at that moment, that all one needed to get Favorite quotes: She had heard it said that children who lose their mothers early are childlike for the rest of their lives. As it happened, she had overheard those words on the morning of her mother’s burial, whispered by the preacher’s wife to the preacher, who had cast a doubtful glance at nine-year-old Ada. There was no one to tell her what to do, and she had no experience with making plans of her own. She had long believed, though she realized it only at that moment, that all one needed to get along in life was a true connection to one person. And Ada was setting her hopes on Matilda’s being that person. “It’s too much. This is too hard.” “Seems that way. To me, too.” Gertie stroked the back of Matilda’s head. “But it always happens you get what you need, a little at a time. You get through a hour, then a day, then a week. Then you look back and it’s been a year, and then more years, and good things found a way in, too. And in time, you see that them you lost are holding you up and moving you on. Helping you see the good. You ain’t done with good things to come.”

  18. 4 out of 5

    CYNTHIA

    Murder breaks through the racial divide that separates two teenage girls, forging an unlikely friendship in this Southern debut Novel. Ada promised herself she would never go back to the Trace, to her unbearable life on the swamp, and to her harsh father in Mississippi. 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 sharecr Murder breaks through the racial divide that separates two teenage girls, forging an unlikely friendship in this Southern debut Novel. Ada promised herself she would never go back to the Trace, to her unbearable life on the swamp, and to her harsh father in Mississippi. 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. 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Desperate times call for desperate measures. Sixteen year old Ada Morgan returns home pregnant to a backwoods swamp located along the trace in Mississippi and finds out just how desperate her life has become. Having run off the previous year, the girl returns to her abusive, belligerent father, Virgil, who is mixed up with bootlegging and running moonshine for the wealthier land owner in the area. Ada meets Matilda, a young black girl, when Matilda saves her life. The haunted tone of the novel a Desperate times call for desperate measures. Sixteen year old Ada Morgan returns home pregnant to a backwoods swamp located along the trace in Mississippi and finds out just how desperate her life has become. Having run off the previous year, the girl returns to her abusive, belligerent father, Virgil, who is mixed up with bootlegging and running moonshine for the wealthier land owner in the area. Ada meets Matilda, a young black girl, when Matilda saves her life. The haunted tone of the novel along with a twisted story of murder, arson, and bootlegging had this reader turning the pages to find out how these two young girls survive the harsh events that will give you nightmares. As sad as the story, the book is well worth the read. An unwanted pregnancy, racial intolerance, and abuse are overcome by these young women in a satisfying end to this unique story. Readers of Where the Crawdads Sing and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek will enjoy this book. This ARC copy was received from Sourcebooks Landmark. The above thoughts and opinions are wholly my own.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kim McGee

    3 1/2 stars Ada is the daughter of a dirt poor trapper living on the edge of Mississippi swamp. Her father is abusive and cruel and even more so when she comes back home pregnant and alone. Matilda is a sharecropper's daughter living in a shack with nothing they can call their own. A violent act brings these two young women together and they form a close friendship despite the different color of their skin and racial tension of the 1920's South. They help each other despite the danger and violenc 3 1/2 stars Ada is the daughter of a dirt poor trapper living on the edge of Mississippi swamp. Her father is abusive and cruel and even more so when she comes back home pregnant and alone. Matilda is a sharecropper's daughter living in a shack with nothing they can call their own. A violent act brings these two young women together and they form a close friendship despite the different color of their skin and racial tension of the 1920's South. They help each other despite the danger and violence all around them. Ada has dreams of being a seamstress and Matilda just wants to head North where she can be free of the secrets. Historical fiction once again featuring tough women in tough times putting up with the men who have total control over their lives. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shirley Freeman

    Since this is set in the deep south and involves a murder, it does remind me of Where the Crawdads Sing but this debut novel holds its own. It was hard to put down and I was often filled with dread as I zipped along. Ada, who is white and poor, lives with her heartless and abusive father in a house on stilts way back in the Mississippi trace (swamp). Matilda, who is black and poor, lives closer to town with her sharecropping parents. The girls' lives intersect as they become intimately involved Since this is set in the deep south and involves a murder, it does remind me of Where the Crawdads Sing but this debut novel holds its own. It was hard to put down and I was often filled with dread as I zipped along. Ada, who is white and poor, lives with her heartless and abusive father in a house on stilts way back in the Mississippi trace (swamp). Matilda, who is black and poor, lives closer to town with her sharecropping parents. The girls' lives intersect as they become intimately involved in several situations happening around them - illegal liquor running (Prohibition is on), animal trapping, severe mistreatment by people in power over people without power. Will Ada and Matilda be able to help each other overcome the tremendous obstacles and horrors they face as they work toward their dreams for a better future? Great story.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Maret

    If you like historical fictions, this book is for you. Set in the Mississippi in the 1920’s, the story is about two teenage girls; Ada and Matilda. Ada who runs away with Jesse, returns back home to her alcoholic and abusive father. She is aware that life with her father who killed her mother will be hard. There is nobody in her life to help her until she meets Matilda, a young girl that saves her life. Even though this book was a little slow-paced for me, I still enjoyed it. The author in detai If you like historical fictions, this book is for you. Set in the Mississippi in the 1920’s, the story is about two teenage girls; Ada and Matilda. Ada who runs away with Jesse, returns back home to her alcoholic and abusive father. She is aware that life with her father who killed her mother will be hard. There is nobody in her life to help her until she meets Matilda, a young girl that saves her life. Even though this book was a little slow-paced for me, I still enjoyed it. The author in detail described the life in Mississippi in the 1920’s, the hardship of living in the house on the stilt in the swamp, the dangerous world of bootleggers, and the survival of young women. I loved the strong bond between Ada and Matilda and their support for each other. Thanks to @netgalley and @bookmarked for the copy of this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Winter

    I would round this up to 4.5 stars. What a great debut book full of adventure, action, and lyrical writing. I was hooked from the very first sentence and knew it was going to be an emotionally deep book. The plot involves two girls who live in the swamp, one being white and one being black in the era of Prohibition. The story starts off with the first part introducing Ada and her backstory until she collides with Matilda. The second part explains Matilda’s backstory and the third part brings the I would round this up to 4.5 stars. What a great debut book full of adventure, action, and lyrical writing. I was hooked from the very first sentence and knew it was going to be an emotionally deep book. The plot involves two girls who live in the swamp, one being white and one being black in the era of Prohibition. The story starts off with the first part introducing Ada and her backstory until she collides with Matilda. The second part explains Matilda’s backstory and the third part brings the two girls together again. This is very much a survival story and has themes of racism. I loved the plot and the main characters. I hated Virgil and Frank so the author did a good job of evoking that emotion. I can completely understand why this book is compared to Where the Crawdads Sing but it is very much so it’s own unique story. I would highly recommend!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shari Suarez

    Ada returns to the Mississippi Swamp after running away with a young man a year prior. Her father is an abusive alcoholic but she has nowhere else to go. One night her father attempts to kill her and a young Black woman named Matilda helps her out. Ada has no idea how to take care of herself and she is surprised to find out something about her health. Matilda also has a tragic backstory and a reason to hide. The two women make a home together and learn how to trust each other because if the past Ada returns to the Mississippi Swamp after running away with a young man a year prior. Her father is an abusive alcoholic but she has nowhere else to go. One night her father attempts to kill her and a young Black woman named Matilda helps her out. Ada has no idea how to take care of herself and she is surprised to find out something about her health. Matilda also has a tragic backstory and a reason to hide. The two women make a home together and learn how to trust each other because if the past catches up with them, they could be in real danger. This book is sad & tragic yet also hopeful and thought provoking. The issues of race & social structure are relevant to today's society even though the book takes place in the 1920's.It would be a great book club choice and might be perfect for those who liked Where the Crawdads Sing.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chevy

    I felt like this book started off a little slowly. I understand having the murder/secret that brought the girls together start the book but since this book was separated into parts I might have written it out of order to get the reader interested and vested to continue. Part 1 Ada was slow and hard to get into and I could see someone really missing out on a good book because of that; once I got to part 2 with Matilda the book really started moving. Some compared this to Where the crawdads sing a I felt like this book started off a little slowly. I understand having the murder/secret that brought the girls together start the book but since this book was separated into parts I might have written it out of order to get the reader interested and vested to continue. Part 1 Ada was slow and hard to get into and I could see someone really missing out on a good book because of that; once I got to part 2 with Matilda the book really started moving. Some compared this to Where the crawdads sing and there is some similarity in the setting and mystery but just. Crawdads was much slower in read with beautiful detailed descriptions that almost made the book. This book touched on that but the slow build of anxious suspense really kept the book moving. If you liked one then you’d like the other and I enjoyed both.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Very reminiscent of Where the Crawdads Sing, but in a good way! The story follows Ada, the white daughter of a drunk fur trapper and Matilda, the black daughter of a sharecropper in Mississippi. While their paths converge for a while, both must find a way to survive individually. You find a way, is what you do. Set in 1920's Mississippi along the Natchez trace, Mustain gives a moving account of life in the deep south. As you already know, experiences were a bit different between the white and bla Very reminiscent of Where the Crawdads Sing, but in a good way! The story follows Ada, the white daughter of a drunk fur trapper and Matilda, the black daughter of a sharecropper in Mississippi. While their paths converge for a while, both must find a way to survive individually. You find a way, is what you do. Set in 1920's Mississippi along the Natchez trace, Mustain gives a moving account of life in the deep south. As you already know, experiences were a bit different between the white and black residents of the trace. Mustain weaves a truly intricate story and I could not put it down. Beautifully written and I am excited to see what she does next. Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC for review.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    This is a lush, slowly unfolding, and fully immersive tale of two young Southern women, one white and one Black, who are essentially raising themselves in a gloriously alive yet unforgiving swamp during Prohibition—and just might end up killing someone. Thriller junkies whose high comes from shocking plot twists, however, should look elsewhere. For me, the "why" of murder always trumps a constantly shifting sense of "who," because long after the set-up to that kind of plot twist is forgotten, th This is a lush, slowly unfolding, and fully immersive tale of two young Southern women, one white and one Black, who are essentially raising themselves in a gloriously alive yet unforgiving swamp during Prohibition—and just might end up killing someone. Thriller junkies whose high comes from shocking plot twists, however, should look elsewhere. For me, the "why" of murder always trumps a constantly shifting sense of "who," because long after the set-up to that kind of plot twist is forgotten, this story of two teens negotiating a racial divide to face the weight of very adult problems will stick to your ribs like a satisfying meal. This is a remarkably self-assure debut that would spark great book club discussion.

  28. 5 out of 5

    ʚϊɞ Shelley's ʚϊɞ Book Nook

    It is difficult for me to believe this is a first novel. I still am in shock over how much I enjoyed this book...I stayed up late into the night just to finish. There are occasionally those books that one can not put down nor go to sleep without finding out what happens. This is such a book, the writing is tender and poetic, I could see the world created before me so easily and it became a character in and of itself. This book will make you cry, smile and hurt. You will fall in love with both Ad It is difficult for me to believe this is a first novel. I still am in shock over how much I enjoyed this book...I stayed up late into the night just to finish. There are occasionally those books that one can not put down nor go to sleep without finding out what happens. This is such a book, the writing is tender and poetic, I could see the world created before me so easily and it became a character in and of itself. This book will make you cry, smile and hurt. You will fall in love with both Ada and Mattie. This is a book about strong women, friendship and what makes a family when yours is lost. It is one of the bests book I have read so far this year and will make my top books of 2021 list no doubt.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Stoltz

    The Girls in the Stilt House tells a somber, yet hopeful, story of two young girls, one white, one colored, in 1920s Mississippi struggling to survive. The girls, Ada and Mattie, are drawn together after accidentally murdering someone and covering it up. The first part tells Ada’s story, the second part tells Mattie’s background, and the third part tells the story of the girls together. For a debut novel, this book was written so well and with such detail you felt like you were there. Mustain cl The Girls in the Stilt House tells a somber, yet hopeful, story of two young girls, one white, one colored, in 1920s Mississippi struggling to survive. The girls, Ada and Mattie, are drawn together after accidentally murdering someone and covering it up. The first part tells Ada’s story, the second part tells Mattie’s background, and the third part tells the story of the girls together. For a debut novel, this book was written so well and with such detail you felt like you were there. Mustain clearly did her research on that time period and wrote all of the characters so beautifully that you couldn’t help but root for some of them and hate others. Definitely a slow burn and took me some time to get into, but was well worth it in the end.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Beverly Turner

    This book is a roller coaster of emotion. Hope, despair, ugliness, beauty. And the reader experiences every bit of it along with Ada and Mathilda, the two protagonists. I know it is inevitable this book will be compared to Where the Crawdads Sing. For me, this book hooked me in a way Crawdads didn't. I think the difference is the authenticity of this novel written by a woman who knows Mississippi and specifically, the Trace. And the lives of the characters with all their joys and problems seemed This book is a roller coaster of emotion. Hope, despair, ugliness, beauty. And the reader experiences every bit of it along with Ada and Mathilda, the two protagonists. I know it is inevitable this book will be compared to Where the Crawdads Sing. For me, this book hooked me in a way Crawdads didn't. I think the difference is the authenticity of this novel written by a woman who knows Mississippi and specifically, the Trace. And the lives of the characters with all their joys and problems seemed plausible, unlike the protagonist in Crawdads. The writer has also done such a good job making the land, the swamp, another character in the book. I liked the ending because I was left with a feeling of hope, not false promises.

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