It rained for months and months during the winter of 1926-27 and the waters of the Mississippi River rose and threatened to spill over the stacks of sandbags on top of the levees protecting towns and cities and hundreds of thousands of people.
In The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly, Ingersoll and his partner Ham are revenue agents and have been sent by Hoover to Hobnob, Mississippi to investigate the disappearance of two agents who were close to discovering a local still. In Hobnob, Dixie Clay and her husband Jesse have made a fortune on moonshine even as their marriage crumbles. The paths of the federal agents and the bootleggers will cross as the flood water gush down on the community and drastically change all their lives.
The tale is intriguing. I'm always a sucker for a good moon shining story. The plot moves along steadily and then builds momentum to the moment the waters flood the area and the story surges forward on a frantic-paced, wild ride as the world washes away and the people are left with only the instinctive struggle to survive. I admit, I'm left hungry for more factual details of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 but The Tilted World does a tremendous job of showing the chaos and confusion from the perspective of people experiencing the disaster.
With beautiful language, the language of a poet and mother, the scenes between Dixie and her newly adopted orphan baby are breathtaking and stunning in their understanding of a mother's rapidly expanding, encompassing love for an infant. I appreciated the eloquence of expression throughout the novel and since this is my first experience with either Franklin and Fennelly, I can't help but attribute the words to the poet.
With the understanding that I am being exceptionally critical because overall the novel is good enough to withstand my nitpicking, the supporting characters are at times weak and cliche. I would have liked Jeanette and Uncle Mookey to be treated with more depth.
I was mesmerized by The Tilted World and the journey back to the days of Prohibition, moonshine stills in the hills and the horrors of the Great Flood.
Before reading 'The Tilted World', all I knew about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 I learned by listening to songs by Bessie Smith, Randy Newman and Led Zeppelin. That a flood could cover an area of the United States the size of New England in my parents' lifetimes and hardly anybody today knows about it is beyond comprehension.
It is the perfect setting for a story of people whose lives are turned upside down.
'The Tilted World' is written in tag-team fashion by husband and wife authors Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly. I've read Franklin before and find him an excellent voice of the American South that is likely to appeal to male readers. Fennelly's writing is more lyrical yet dovetails nicely with her husband's more matter-of-fact style. Both serve to bring out the personalities of their characters with Franklin serving as the voice of Teddy Ingersoll, a World War I veteran and strong silent type with a passion for the blues, and Fennelly speaking for Dixie Clay Holliver, an introspective woman coming to regret the impulsive match made in her younger days and mourning the loss of her baby to scarlet fever. Ingersoll is a revenue agent and Dixie is a moonshiner. It could never work.
Alright, I admit it. The book is a romance, but don't let that scare you off. It is also a thriller, complete with all the sorts of thriller stuff like murders, explosions, natural disasters, torture, kidnapping and all sorts of near-death experiences.
The history buffs will enjoy the descriptions of a world waiting for the inevitable break in the levee. The parts about the flood are well researched but Franklin does make a few historical blunders on more general topics such as the landlady wearing `nylon stockings' thirteen years before they were invented or the `pair of Atlanta engineers' chatting about `the Braves' 40 years before the team moved to that fair city. Even so, it's a great yarn, well worth reading.
*Quotations are cited from an advanced reading copy and may not be the same as appears in the final published edition. The review copy of this book was obtained from the publisher via the Amazon Vine Program.
on October 17, 2013
The Mississippi River was home to Dixie Clay after she married her husband, Jesse. at the ripe old age of sixteen. She really didn't know anything about what he did for a living, and she certainly didn't know he was a bootlegger.
THE TILTED WORLD is set in Mississippi during the flooding in the 1920's and has a very eccentric set of characters. There are bootleggers, revenuers trying to catch the bootleggers, women who are supporting their bootlegging husbands, and a baby who along with Dixie Clay are two of the main characters, and the characters that carry the storyline.
Dixie Clay and the baby will warm your heart, and Jesse will make you want to set him straight for how he treats Dixie Clay.
Ingersoll and Ham are the revenuers who have out-of-the ordinary backgrounds...especially Ingersoll. Ingersoll's background tells his story in flashbacks. His background made him the "sweet" man Dixie Clay became `sweet" on.
Franklin and Fennelly are master storytellers, and their detail is incredible. You will easily feel the river rising, the steels bubbling, the energy in the speakeasies, and the life that was lead in Mississippi at this time. The writing is smooth and easy and will pull you in just as the river does as the story unfolds.
The book is definitely character driven and quite easy to become involved with the characters whether they are upstanding or not. There actually aren't too many upstanding characters, but I really enjoyed THE TILTED WORLD once it got on its way.
I didn't know what to expect at first, but THE TILTED WORLD is quite appealing because of the characters and the amazing writing. You will also find out the meaning of the title.
The ending will have you on the edge of your seat, but it will also have you smiling. 4/5
This book was given to me free of charge by the publisher and without compensation in return for an honest review
I was so thrilled to hear about this book! I love tales of community struggle in the face of nature and/or bureaucracy. When I heard that there were going to be bootleggers, I was even more thrilled. So, I guess you could say that I went into this high expectations. This novel did not live up to a single one of my expectations. The characters were thin and static, the plot had less depth than a spaghetti western, and every action was predictable.
There seemed to be too many cooks in the kitchen on this one and it was hard to figure out what the book wanted me to focus on. Was it a story about bootleggers? A tale of corruption in the 1920s? A redemption story? A love story? Or a historic piece? Because the novel suffered from such an identity crisis, it was hard for me to stay focused. There were times that I put the book down and didn't want to pick it up again. Once I finally finished it, I could not say that I felt satisfied that I finished it. I predicted just about everything that was going to happen within the first three chapters. Still, I thought that I would read to the end just in case there was a curve ball thrown in. Nope! I could have stopped reading at chapter three.
on March 16, 2014
This book drew me in. The writing is literary, the attention to detail wonderful. I was invested in both of the main characters.
And then...the action became unbelievable. Without spoiling, let me just say that I have broken bones and there is a scene later in the book that could not/would not happen. Not only that, the main female character, tough and resilient as she is, simply couldn't have survived some of the things she survived. At that point, I thought I was in a "Bourne" novel, where one expects the main hero to endure and survive ludicrous injuries.
That ruined the book for me. Although the writing is high quality, I cannot strongly recommend this book. Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a better book overall.
on September 24, 2014
Tilted, indeed. Flooded. Washed. An amazing story taken from the little–known history of the 1927 Flood, which begs for comparison to Tropical Storm Katrina experiences, which are very similar. This story is personalized through the eyes of a woman, Dixie Clay, who makes the very best whiskey, and a Revenuer special agent, Ingersoll, and his partner, Ham. Oh, and a baby named Willy. It does not lose a beat in its descriptive power. If you were not there on the levees in Hobnob, or in New Orleans, then this will give you a feel for it. You also get a feel for Dixie's heart as she mothers Willie.
All in all, this is a powerful story by Tom Franklin and his wife, Beth Ann Fennelly. There is also another prize: an essay by Beth Ann about the collaboration and writing process the authors used. And, a "Tilted World" songlist. Some of you will be interested in this. I know I was.
on March 1, 2016
good read which started out well describing the south in the 1920's; a lot about the flooding which occurred then, the effects of prohibition & bootlegging and the prejudice of jim crow laws in effect then; good read but it bogged down a little towards the end
on July 13, 2015
This was one of the best written books I have read in a long time. I had previously read Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter book and was enamored with the word pictures he creates. This book even surpassed the first. He is a gifted writer who lives his characters and puts the reader in the mind of each of the cast of characters. The end of the book was great and then the epilog tied all together. I have recommended this as a great read to many others and I will be reading everything Franklin writes.
on January 23, 2016
After "Poachers," I knew Tom Franklin was a big talent, as borne out by his later books as well, but "A Tilted World" is the best thing I've read in years.
Set in the crosshairs of the Great Flood of 1927 in Hobnob, Mississippi—an era I am familiar with both as a Southerner (Arkansas) and as someone who has travelled the Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter Delta of towns such as Greenville, Ruleville, Friars Point, Lula, Drew, Sledge, Mound Bayou, and other "Last Picture Show" type towns, I say"Bravo" Franklin and Fennelly,
The writing is simply superb—the beauty and poetic cadence of the language, the verisimilitude of the Southern idiom, and the nonstop pageturning action set in the aftermath of this singular 1927 inland tsunami . Dixie Clay, the bootlegger heroine in the vein of Faulkner's Addie Bundren is a delight, and I suspect, allegorically named for the abiding Southern feminine principle of that era. Ingersoll's ophaned revenuer reminds me of Hemingway's Frederick in "A Farewell To Arms" as he rescues and shuttles Dixie's Catherine to safety from the flood in his commandeered boat.
Buy this book and you will be well-rewarded. I predict it will become an American classic.
on June 16, 2016
The Great Mississippi Flood of 1926-27 is the setting. The information about the disaster and the culture of the times are incredibly well drawn. The characters involved - bootleggers and revenuers - bring it to life and Dixie Clay, Ingersoll, Ham and Jesse are representative of the times and a little romance goes a long way to humanizing the story of the times.
Well written to the degree that I was fully taken in! A very worthy and excellent read.