Lucy Kilgore has her bags packed for her escape from her rural Tennessee upbringing, but a drunken mistake forever tethers her to the town and one of its least-admired residents, Jeptha Taylor, who becomes the father of her child. Together, these two young people work to form a family, though neither has any idea how to accomplish that, and the odds are against them in a place with little to offer other than bluegrass music, tobacco fields, and a Walmart full of beer and firearms for the hunting season. Their path is harrowing, but Lucy and Jeptha are characters to love, and readers will root for their success in a novel so riveting that no one will want to turn out the light until they know whether this family will survive.
In luminous prose, debut novelist Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne brings us a present-day Appalachian story in the tradition of Lee Smith, Silas House, and Ron Rash, cast without sentiment or cliché, but with a genuine and profound understanding of the place and its people.
“Holding On To Nothing is a resonant song of the South, all whiskey, bluegrass, Dolly Parton, tobacco fields, and women who know better but still fall for the lowdown men whom they know will disappoint them. Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne writes with extraordinary love and compassion of the lives of her flawed characters; she shines a clear, calm light on their tragedies, their joys, and their hard-won redemptions.” ―Lauren Groff, Florida and Fates and Furies
“Forget Hillbilly Elegy and read this gorgeous novel instead. Every detail is exactly right. Contemporary themes of work and no work, drinking, sex, guns, music, community, and no future―along with in-depth character development and a hard-driving plot―make this a book you literally cannot put down.” ―Lee Smith, Dimestore: A Writer’s Life and The Last Girls
“With her immense empathy for her characters, Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne refuses to give the reader a simple, and stereotypical, tale of Appalachian dysfunction. Instead, we get a story of a seemingly star-crossed couple striving to create a better life in the most trying of circumstances. Holding On To Nothing is a gem.” ―Ron Rash, Serena
Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne grew up reading, writing, and shooting in East Tennessee. After graduating from Amherst College, she became a writer and a staff editor at the Atlantic Monthly. Her nonfiction work has been published in the Atlantic Monthly, Boston Globe, and Globalpost, among others. She lives outside Boston with her husband and four children.
Kelly J. Ford is an instructor for GrubStreet Writing Center and a graduate of their Novel Incubator program. Her fiction has appeared in Black Heart Magazine, Fried Chicken and Coffee, and Knee-Jerk Magazine. Although Kelly is from Fort Smith, Arkansas, she now lives in Boston with her wife and cat.
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.