Tag Archives: Tom Franklin

Book Review: The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly

7 Nov

Because NaNoWriMo seems to be going well for me, I’m going to take a break today and write up this book review. I wanted to be sure to get these words down before I forgot anything about the book.

Book Cover from Goodreads.com

Book Cover from Goodreads.com

The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly

I received an advanced reader copy of this book as a part of Goodreads First Reads program. I’m not sure if my copy is exactly the same as the published manuscript as I did find one typo. Maybe it got caught?

The Tilted World is a piece of historical fiction that takes place in 1927 Mississippi. Little remembered in history, the Mississippi River reached record heights that summer, threatening to flood the surrounding valleys. Federal agents Ingersoll and Ham are sent to the town of Hobnob to track down a bootlegger, but soon find a plot to blow up the levee and flood the town a bit more pressing. Complicating everything is the relationship between Ingersoll, the bootlegger, Dixie Clay, and her husband, the wheeling and dealing Jesse who sells moonshine all over the south.

I would identify the two themes of the book as motherhood and looking past prejudices. One of the central characters of the book is a baby named Willy. Ingersoll found Willy at the scene of a fatal shoot out where the infant’s parents were killed. An orphan himself, Ingersoll couldn’t bring himself to leave Willy at an orphanage and asked around Hobnob for a family that would take the baby. He was referred to Dixie Clay and her husband, Jesse, who lost a baby not long before.

Dixie Clay’s fierce love for her adopted son is a central theme of the book. She cares for him when he’s sick, takes him to the still with her when she’s making moonshine, and protects him from her temperamental husband. A mother’s love drives much of the plot.

The other theme is prejudices. Ingersoll is a federal agent who specializes in busting moonshiners. Dixie Clay is a moonshiner; the two should hate each other, but they don’t. The ability of the characters to look past what they do and see who the other person truly is as a human is another big theme of the novel. It’s a sort of a ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ theme.

As a writer of 1920s fiction, I was really excited to read this book. I knew nothing about the Mississippi flooding, which is the largest natural disaster in US history. I really enjoyed the history of this novel along with the mystery of who was going to sabotage the levee.

Jesse is the central antagonist in the novel as he works against both Dixie Clay and Ingersoll. He raises several issues of loyalty in the book; loyalty to his wife and loyalty to his community. Jesse’s faithfulness is questionable at best when it comes to his marriage. He frequents homes of ill repute, but is never honest about if it’s for business purposes or for his personal enjoyment. He gets angry at Dixie Clay when he suspects her infidelity, but her questions of him go by without comment.

His loyalty to the town causes the deaths of hundred of his fellow Hobnobers when (spoiler!) he takes a bribe from New Orleans in exchange for blowing up the levee. He was promised a run at governor and a huge sum of money to sabotage the levee and let Hobnob flood, leaving New Orleans safe from high waters. Jesse is loyal to no one but himself.

Writer’s Takeaway: Because I’m so engrossed in the 1920s with my own novel, there were a few things that bothered me about this book from a period standpoint. The biggest was that Dixie Clay’s house, in rural Mississippi and far from town, had electricity. My research showed that electricity was in most large cities, but I find her having electricity in such a small, out of the way house very hard to believe. I think it should have been edited out, especially because it wasn’t relevant to the story. But that’s just my opinion.

The pace of this novel was done very well. I was intrigued enough to keep reading but the authors didn’t give too much away at a time. Because the narrative bounced between Dixie Clay and Ingersoll, the reader always knew more than the characters and it was a race to see if they would figure everything out in time.

Every time I thought, “This is an irrelevant detail,” the authors would prove my wrong and bring all of the nuances of the text full circle. As a reader, I appreciate when the authors clear up all loose ends.

Overall, enjoyable and well written. Three out of five stars.

Until next time, Reader, write on.


Recently Added to my To-Read Shelf

9 Oct

My list has gotten out of control this past week!  Nine books added to it.  That brings me to a total of 95 and I don’t know how I’m ever going to make a dent in it.  Oh Reader, I’m begging you; let me know if any of these are terrible or not worth my time.  I can only read so much before I die.

  1. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell: After reading Fangirl, Nicole started on this one and assures me that it’s amazing.  Two teens who know falling in love won’t last, but can’t help doing it anyway.
  2. The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly: Here’s another book I won on First Reads!  And to make it even better, it’s set in the 20s and talks about bootleggers.  I couldn’t be more excited.  It’s the story of two detectives who go to investigate the disappearance of fellow agents and get mixed up with Miss Dixie Clay, the most notorious bootlegger in the south.
  3. Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson: On my previous post talking about the credentials a writer needs, Nicole send me a list of links and one was to Ingermanson’s blog.  I liked is writing style and advice so I think a read of his book might be in order.
  4. Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson: The logical following of a book on writing fiction is the more niche book on YA fiction.
  5. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys: I have a theory that if you see a book twice, you should just scoop it up and read it.  I saw Sepetys book once on Bermuda Onion’s Weblog so when I saw it again (Lord knows where), it had to go on the list!  The daughter of a prostitute, Josie longs to get escape New Orleans but the thread tying her to a mysterious murder is strong.  It sounds like some solid YA fiction that I’m glad I found.
  6. Waiting to be Heard by Amanda Knox: After how much I disliked Jaycee Dugard’s memoir, I was hesitant to add Knox’s to my list.  When a friend from my Spanish group recommended it, I couldn’t resist and here it is!  If you’re unfamiliar with Amanda’s story, I’ll summarize.  She was 20 and studying abroad in Italy when her roommate was killed.  Amanda was tried and convicted of the murder, spending four years in Italian prison before new evidence brought the case back to trial and she was acquitted and allowed to move home to the US.  This is her story.
  7. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed: This is another book I’ve seen repeatedly and couldn’t keep off of the list.  This memoir traces a woman’s decision to escape from a crumbling life and hike alone on the West Coast trail with minimal experience.  I do love a good memoir and this one seems to have won many awards (hopefully for the right reasons).
  8. Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market by Victoria Hanley: I asked at my writer’s workshop if anyone had read any good books about YA publishing specifically and this one was recommended.  I hope to give it a go soon!
  9. Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going: This was another workshop recommendation and I’m not as sold on this one.  Any suggestions, reader?
  10. The Round House by Louise Erdich: Recommended by my supervisor who reads almost as much as I do!  When his mother is violently attacked, Joe is desperate to bring her back from the edge as she draws into herself.  His quest takes him and his friends to the Round House, a sacred place of worship of the Ojibwe.

Reader, I implore you for your help!  Which of these are keepers and which can I pitch?  Please help me prune down the ever-growing list to a manageable size!