Get excited, y’all. The king and queen of contemporary Southern literature have combined forces to bestow upon us a novel so intoxicating and radiant that it’s going to be one of the biggest titles of the season.
Due on shelves Oct. 1, “The Tilted World” is the first collaborative effort of New York Times bestselling author of “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter,” Tom Franklin, and his wife, award winning poet and author of “Great With Child,” Beth Ann Fennelly. The result of this pairing, “The Tilted World” is a page-turner imbued with Franklin’s eye for grit and suspense and polished with Fennelly’s adept lyricism and sensitivity.
Set in 1927 Mississippi, this story is underpinned by the impending devastation caused by the Great Mississippi Flood that destroyed much of the Mississippi Delta as, according to the authors, a wall of water “with twice the force of Niagara falls” swept over the land.
But “The Tilted World” is as much a portrait of an era as it is a story of the South. It encompasses an America rebuilding after World War II, battling over prohibition, redefining ideas of race and gender — an America as tumultuous as the Mississippi River swelling against the levees straining to keep it at bay.
Fennelly and Franklin vitalize this age through the stories of the novel’s characters: a charming bootlegger named Jesse Holliver and his wife, Dixie Clay, whose spunk is nearly extinguished as she struggles every day, unfulfilled, to cope with an overwhelming loss. A war veteran turned federal agent adrift in his meaningless life sent with his partner to bust the Holliver still. An orphaned baby. Morphine-addict flappers. Chicago blues singers. A saboteur. Things get sticky, and “The Tilted World” seamlessly weaves all of these lives into a thrilling tale of deceit, tension and love.
In keeping with the theme of strain and fracture, this novel is gripping and suspenseful, but, most of all, it is a story of renewal and redemption. The levees broke on Good Friday of 1927, making this historic event the ideal impetus for a narrative about the flow and resilience of living and of life beginning anew.
As well as being an intriguing story, “The Tilted World” is a beautiful meditation on second chances and growth from destruction and chaos that will resound with the humanity in all its readers. It’s a novel full of heart and spirit that is both expansive and intimate, truly a whole to the best parts of Franklin and Fennelly’s perspectives.
The book release event for “The Tilted World” will be on Oct. 1, at 6 p.m. located at the Powerhouse in Oxford. Signed copies of the novel will be available at Square Books for $25.99.