I was prepared to love Susanna Daniel’s debut novel, Stiltsville, based solely on the cover photograph, which called to me from the advertisement in Poets & Writers and lured me to the new book display in my local library, where I was powerless to resist. Despite the adage that we shouldn’t judge books by their covers, I often choose them just that way. The cover of Stiltsville promises simplicity and serenity, and the book delivers both, eventually.
In Stiltsville Susanna Daniel invites us to tag along with an average couple, Frances and Dennis. They meet, get married, and have a girl child, none of which is very exciting or memorable in and of itself. What is memorable is the way Daniel draws the reader in to the story and creates characters we care about, some from the beginning and others as we move through time. As we follow this Georgia girl, Frances, through her life, almost exclusively in Florida, we are reminded that we have choices to make. She shows us that while a few people are static, most of us are making decisions every day that make us different people than we were yesterday. Daniel shows us the reality of love—all sorts: romantic, familial, long lasting friendship—and marriage and all the phases of both. She chronicles the cycle of life of a particular fictional character and manages to show us everywoman’s journey—an honest journey and one readers can identify with on many levels. My favorite writing professor used to say that all good writing makes the reader feel something. Using that gauge, Daniel is a great writer, and I cannot wait to read what comes after Stiltsville.