The Tilted World is a historical fiction / thriller set in 1927, during Prohibition and the great Mississippi River flood of that year. Twenty-two year old Dixie Clay Holliver is a bootlegger, taking over making moonshine for her philandering husband Jesse after their baby boy dies. Ted Ingersoll is a revenuer, a federal agent who, with his partner Ham Johnson, has been sent into the Hobnob Landing area on the river, both to find out who murdered two other revenuers as well as locate the local still.
Ingersoll and Ham (why they are referred to this way, instead of Ted and Ham, or Ingersoll and Johnson, is not clear), stumble on a robbery gone bad and a newly-orphaned infant. Ingersoll is an orphan himself, and, rather than place the baby in an orphanage, he takes it to Dixie Clay (always referred to this way, and not just as Dixie) when he learns from a local storekeeper about her lost baby. Predictably (but unrealistically), they fall in love.
Meanwhile, the Mississippi River is rising, higher than it's ever been before, and Hobnob worries about a breach in the levee protecting the town - either accidental or intentional. Hobnob was offered money by New Orleans investors intent on saving their town from floodwaters to let its levees be destroyed, and sabotage is still a possibility.
While some of the plot (and the love story) is rather predictable, I enjoyed this book, as it's the first I've read about this great flood, of which I knew very little. Most people don't know much about it - its major effects were on poor Southerners, "white trash" and black sharecroppers, so most of the country didn't care.
Also interesting is the fact that the book was written by a husband-and-wife team. Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly had written a collaborative short story, which their agent suggested expanding into a novel they'd co-write. Franklin has the thriller/fiction experience, while Fennelly specializes in poetry and nonfiction. Some of the descriptive language, while quite lovely, was a little *too* purple for me, but they are spot on with experiences with a new baby (they'd just had their third while writing this book), and, as residents of Mississippi, are familiar with the setting and history of the area. Like all good historical fiction, this book makes me want to learn more - this time, about the 1927 Mississippi flood.
© Amanda Pape - 2013
[I won this advance reader edition in a contest by the publisher, William Morrow, with no expectation of anything in exchange. The Tilted World will be published on October 1, 2013. After that, I will pass my copy on for someone else to enjoy.]