Book Nook: The Tilted World, by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly

Dec 2, 2013

If you surveyed some passersby and asked them to name the most destructive river flood in American history most of them probably wouldn't know the right answer. It happened in 1927. The swollen Mississippi River had burst through the levee system. 27,000 square miles, an area 50 miles wide and 100 miles long was flooded and under as much as 30 feet of water.

Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly have written a novel, "The Tilted World," that begins in the town of Hobnob, Mississippi. This was in the spring of 1927 as the rain poured down and the mighty river surged ominously.

It is at the height of Prohibition. Tiny Hobnob was awash in bootleg liquor. The bootlegger Jesse Holliver is selling some high quality shine. The booze was actually being made by his wife, Dixie Clay. She labored at the stills while grieving over their infant son that died during the scarlet fever epidemic.

Enter Ham Johnson and Ted Ingersoll, federal revenue agents who wanted to find what had become of the two missing agents they had already sent there.  Ingersoll encounters an orphaned baby. He ends up bringing the child to a young mother he heard about. Her child had died. That's right, he brought the orphan to Dixie Clay.

The levees will surely fail. And where are those missing revenue agents? The authors know how to build the suspense. Tom Franklin is a novelist who writes dark gnarly fiction. His co-author, and partner in life, the poet Beth Ann Fennelly exerts a softening influence on this story. Dixie bonds with her new baby. Her love for this child sustains her as the flood engulfs almost everyone that she holds dear.

That was my review from the Dayton Daily News. I love this book. It is one of the best novels of the year. Listen to the interview to find out how this literary collaboration came about.