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The Girls in the Stilt House (2021)Description / Buy at Amazon

Kelly Mustian is a historical fiction author born in Natchez, Mississippi. Her work has been featured in multiple literary journals and commercial magazines. Her debut novel is The Girls in the Stilt House

Her short fiction won the Blumenthal Writers and Readers series award. Kelly received a Regional Artist Grant from the North Carolina Arts and Science council.
The Girls in the Stilt House

Ada Morgan comes back to her father’s cabin in the Trace, Mississippi. His job is to trap animals, and Ada ran away from him a year ago. She finds it a mess; the cabin looks filthy, and she decides to clean it while she nervously waits for her father to return home.

Ada had decided never to return to the Trace, to the hard life in the swamp and her strict father. She ran away at 15 but was forced to come back at the age of 16.

When she finds herself running away to Baton Rouge and knowing different types of life, she has nowhere else to go except to her home. However, this will mean she has a price to pay with her father. Later, the reader learns what kind of a man Virgil Morgan is and why Ada’s mother is not around.

Ada isn’t happy to be back with his father, considering he has been drinking daily. She knows he is up to no good, but what can she do when she has no one to turn to? This goes on until one night, her father puts her life in danger, and then there appears Matilda, who helps her get on her feet.

Matilda, a sharecropper’s daughter, is from the opposite side of the Trace. She dreams of having a better life one day. She’s a black girl in the 1920s

Mississippi and has a dream of working in the North to help her family. Dalton, her father, works hard, does whatever he’s told by his boss, and has no choice but to follow his orders. She’s doing all she can to keep her family safe from the demands of some locals.

She is just a year older than Ada, wary, and so much more aware of the dangers in the world than the innocent Ada. The two girls are brought together by tragedy and circumstances. What are the chances that the two teenagers would meet and share a deep secret and become the Girls in the Stilt House?

Matilda comes up with a plan of going to the North to uncover the secrets holding her life in the south and put them open for all to see. After witnessing a death, the two girls meet and are bound together and decide to keep it a secret.

Matilda is cautious of the white folks and doesn’t want to get involved with Ada as she has no one else to help her. The two make an odd duo; when Ada thinks she can take herself out of poverty, Matlida disappears, and the Entire situation becomes complicated and dangerous again

As the two girls dig deeper into the bootleggers and moral corruption, they’ll have to face the complications of their flimsy bond and a hidden past that link them in ways that cost their lives. Nasty things are going on, and various people are involved, whether willingly or unwillingly, and it’s clear they do whatever it takes not to get caught.

Ada is desperately poor and also a target by the white folks as she’s seen as trash due to the personality and activities of his father. She is isolated and victim to her circumstances, including living in a nearby swamp.

Can the two girls learn to trust each other and be able to keep secrets they know to save each other’s life? How will they detach themselves from the revenge that might follow once everything is discovered?

The story is told from three perspectives; the first is Ada’s, where the reader learns more about her background than Matilda’s as the story opens up. None of the girls has had an easy time, but Matilda has faced many injustices. The two fight to survive in a world with no mercy at all. You’ll find yourself wishing that they find a haven.

First, Kelly allows the reader to learn about Ada’s present life, which is in the 1920s, then later, she introduces Matilda and her plans to escape the temptations of living as a sharecropper. Each of them will have to deal with Frank Bowers, and only their mutual dependence will help them escape his wrath for wrongs.

Ada is so naïve, which might be due to her lack of a mother figure and support from her community. On the other hand, Matilda is a clever survivor, and her dreams and the risks she takes are to pursue a better life in the future.

The story serves as a reminder of how poverty minimizes options and opportunities and how it puts one in danger. It’s the kind of novel that one can’t go to sleep without finding out what happens. The novel is about strong women, friendship, and what makes a family after one loses theirs.

The Girls in the Stilt House will have you crying, smiling, and sometimes hurting. It has lots of twists and turns involving murder, secrets, and racial tension to keep the reader engaged to the end. The author gives unique insights into life in the south 60 years after the end of the civil war, where the black people still live in terror and must be careful of the cunning actions of the whites to trap them.

The secondary characters are vibrant, and Kelly used their relevance to develop the story further. There is tension all the way through, making a fantastic story where the reader will want to know what will happen in the end. The story is a moody coming of age about two struggling and resilient teenagers living in poverty and abuse ‘and can’t depend on the people who should be ensuring their safety.

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2 Responses to “Kelly Mustian”

  1. Sandra DeVault: 5 months ago

    Kelly, I loved your book the way that you put Ada and Mattie together.
    What a story and the setting. It was better than the Crawdad book. Honestly. Keep writing, love your work. Going to recommend to our book club, family and friends.

    Reply
  2. stephanie Kersten: 9 months ago

    Just finished The Girls in the Stilt House. Absolutely loved it. I have never been to Mississippi, but your narrative certainly took me there….right into the arms of the swamp and the Stilt House. I do think this has ever happened before. Kudos to you on your first book. I will now look forward to your next book.

    Reply

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