The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian – a Book Review

I chose this book a few months ago for my month’s pick for Read Between the Wines, my book club. I came across the audiobook on my app and was intrigued by the cover. It was touted as a book for lovers of Where the Crawdads Sing, of which I am one. So I was pretty much sold.


It is Mississippi in the 1920’s and two girls from different sectors of life come together after both experience tragedy. Ada, after running away from her abusive father to Baton Rouge with a lover, returns to the Trace because she has been abandoned and has nowhere else to go. Matilda, the fiery daughter of sharecroppers, fleeing from some unknown force of evil, comes upon the stilt house of Ada and her father on the swamp. Together the girls forge an unlikely friendship that’s full of secrets from their pasts, secrets that will come out as the girls get pulled further into a dangerous world they never sought but found them anyway.


This is a creative plot, and it’s quite well paced. I didn’t have any trouble keeping my interest focused on the narration. I liked the main characters for the most part, but I didn’t like the fact that this book portrayed a very black and white view of the world. Good was good and evil was pure evil. The villains were quite over the top, and there was little to no complexity to their story. Matilda was probably the most complex and well-drawn character, and it was her story that really pulled me in. I enjoyed the way her story unfolded, little by little and layer by layer. As with many other stories about black Americans in this time period in the South, her story is bleak. It’s really hard to wrap my mind around the idea that one person could endure so much damn heartbreak, but history is unfortunately full of them. Frankly, I commend Mustian for not sugar-coating her past. This novel is certainly not meant to be a feel-good Hallmark movie, but it certainly is about the fierce and intense fortitude that come with being a woman in a completely unforgiving world. Both Ada and Matilda are a testament to that, both in very similar ways and in very different ways. Thankfully, this ultimately means the difficult aspects of this book wind up being infused with a lot of hope. There is a silver lining.

Ultimately, this book does represent precisely why historical fiction is one of my all-time favorite genres. It lays a foundation. It provides context for precisely where we’ve come and how we attained progress to get to where we are today. And each character pays homage to the real souls who had to fight and suffer to show us the path we needed to take. Despite some minor quibbles I may have had with the novel, it is a worthwhile read even if it isn’t perfect.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Published April 6, 2021 by Blackstone Audio. ISBN 9781665105644. Runtime 9 hrs, 56 mins. Narrated by: Johanna Parker.


About Amy @ A Librarian and Her Books

I'm a law librarian from the state of Missouri and a graduate of Missouri State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia. My real passion is in fiction, which is why I started my blog to share my thoughts with other bibliophiles. I live with my husband and two wonderful children and a collection of furry feline companions.
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3 Responses to The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian – a Book Review

  1. A good book review. Thank you 🙏

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