The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian is a debut novel that is being compared to the wildly popular bestseller, Where the Crawdads Sing and there are indeed similarities. Both novels are historical fiction, they take place in a swamp setting, and there is a murder and a coming of age. It is also eerily similar, how fast both books will keep you turning their pages.
Set in the 1920’s Mississippi swamp called “The Trace,” The Girls in the Stilt House actually tells the stories of two young women. Ada Morgan is 16 and pregnant and has just returned home to her cruel father, Virgil, after running away the year previously.
Matilda is a 17-year-old sharecropper’s daughter, who has plans to escape the racial oppression around her and move north to Cleveland. She is tired of seeing her own father cowering under the thumb of the local bootlegger and wants to leave the swamp behind, but when Matilda sees Ada’s life being threatened, she intervenes, and Virgil ends up dead. Now, the two girls find that their only chance for survival is to rely on one another.
This suspenseful and sometimes-dark tale of oppression and survival is a captivating and poignant read that surprised and impressed this reader. I’ll be looking forward to the author’s next book!