William Morrow/Harper Collins, $25.99, 303 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-206918-4
Think you know American History? Here’s a question for you . . . what, and when, was the most destructive flood in the entire history of the United States?
It’s a tough question. The correct answer is, the Mississippi River in the year 1927. It’s known as the year the rains, which started in November, never stopped. In the flooding that followed, 246 people were killed in seven different states, 27,000 square miles were flooded to a depth of thirty feet in places and south of Memphis, Tennessee, the Mississippi was sixty miles wide.
It is against that tragic and awe-inspiring backdrop The Tilted World, by the husband and wife team of Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly, takes place. In it, we meet Dixie Clay Holliver, a charming and sympathetic moonshine maker, who’s suffering at the hands of her abusive, pandering husband and from the death of her infant son, in the town of Hobnob, Mississippi. Hobnob is slightly north of New Orleans, at a critical bend in the river, where two of Herbert Hoover’s prohibition agents have disappeared. It’s a place where extensive sandbagging efforts are taking place in an effort to hold the river back, but if Hobnob is saved, New Orleans will be doomed. Two of Hoover’s best, most incorruptible and hard-nosed Treasury agents named Ted Ingersoll and Ham Johnson have been sent to investigate. When they stumble onto a crime scene with multiple murders and find a live baby amid the bodies; they’re faced with the problem of what to do with the infant, how to care for it, and where to place it to be raised. In the meantime, the water is still rising, disaster appears imminent and the illegal moonshining continues unabated as the tension, danger and urgency increase with every page.
The Tilted World is beautifully written and contains a charming story that plays out against one of the greatest, and now largely forgotten, natural disasters America has ever seen. This novel should be on everyone’s reading list. It’s pure gold!