When I first read the reviews and praise and hype for this book I was eager to get to it immediately. It is the type of book that I love and I wanted to read it as soon as possible. It was a bit of a slow read at first. I liked the story and was getting interested in the characters but I was beginning to wonder why I wanted to read it…why did I bump all of my other books down to the bottom of my queue and choose this one? But soon I was caught up in the events in the lives of this Florida family. Frances, Dennis, Marse, Bette, Gloria, Grady, Margo and Scott are key characters in a book full of quirky unique characters. The only way that I can describe this novel is sort of like the peeling of an artichoke. You read about one event and that leads you to the next event and the next and the next and the next after that. I think for me it was reading about ordinary people dealing with all of the day to day and year to year events in their lives. The struggles and the triumphs and the mistakes and the joys are all wrapped up in these houses and the neighborhoods in and around Miami beginning in the 1950’s and ending at the end point of a 26 year marriage.
Stilthouses, of course, play an important role in this story. It is where Dennis and Frances met…it is where their story begins…it is where the novel unfolds. There are actually still stilthouses in Biscayne Bay near Miami, Florida. They look odd and unsafe and beautiful. The stilthouse in Dennis’s family seems to be a point of refuge and happiness for them during the various upheavals in their lives. It provides an escape and a getaway during trying times and it is, after all, the place where Dennis and Francis really begin.
I loved this book. It touched my heart and soul. I cried as the story ended. Suzanna Daniel writes lyrically and beautifully and masterfully. It was one of my favorite reading experiences so far this year. This story and this family will stay in my thoughts for a long time.