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One sunny morning in 1969, near the end of her first trip to Miami, twenty-six-year-old 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 skyline in the distance and the unknowable ocean beneath her, she meets the house's owner, Dennis DuVal—and a new future reveals itself.
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 wins 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 and the complicated city they call home.
Stiltsville is the family's island oasis—until suddenly it's gone, and Frances is forced to figure out how to make her family work on dry land. Against a backdrop of lush tropical beauty, Frances and Dennis struggle with the mutability of love and Florida's weather, as well as temptation, chaos, and disappointment. But just when Frances thinks she's reached some semblance of higher ground, she must confront an obstacle so great that even the lessons she's learned about navigating the uncharted waters of family life can't keep them afloat.
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.
About the Author
Born and raised in Miami, Susanna Daniel received her MFA at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, and was a Carl Djerassi Fiction Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Stiltsville is her first novel.
Praise for Stiltsville…
“I fell in love with Susanna Daniel’s characters, Dennis and Frances. The dialogue, the pacing, and the tenderness between this married couple is so authentic and true. But it’s the setting of Florida, and especially the place that is Stiltsville, that literally elevates this story to magic.”
-Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief
“This soulful novel will inspire you to reflect on your own definitions of house, home, and what really makes a couple close.”
“Both structurally and in tone, the book recalls linked short-story collections such as Alice Munro’s The Beggar Maid, following one character chronologically through a long period. Each piece can stand alone, but the whole is enriched when they are read together. . . . Lovely.”
-Laura C.J. Owen, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A quietly remarkable novel. . . . Reminiscent of Marilynn Robinson’s Home.”
-Scott Eyman, Palm Beach Post
“A deeply engrossing tale of love, family, friendship, and motherhood, Stiltsville is both an elegantly crafted work of art and a great read. The love story effortlessly spans decades, and the characters are as real and vivid as the novel’s South Florida backdrop. Susanna Daniel is an extraordinary writer.”
-Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Prep and American Wife
“Set against the wild and changeable landscape of South Florida, Stiltsville is a wise and loving portrait of a marriage, written with keen insight into the ways two lives grow together over the years. This is a rare first novel. Susanna Daniel writes beautifully of matters of the heart.”
-Jennifer Haigh, author of The Condition, Baker Towers, and Mrs. Kimble
“In this wise and luminous novel, Susanna Daniel does something truly rare: she creates characters so real that you feel they’ve entered the very room where you sit reading. Before you know it, they’ve also entered your heart, and are breaking it…. A work of tremendous maturity, empathy and humanity.”
-Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion and Black and White
“I fell in love in the opening pages of Stiltsville. There was nothing I wanted more than to spend time in the company of these vivid characters and keep reading Susanna Daniel’s lovely, lucid prose.”
-Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street