This spellbinding debut by Julia Franks is the story of an Appalachian woman intrigued by the possibility of change and escape—stalked by a Bible-haunted man who fears his government and stakes his integrity upon an older way of life. Read More
It’s 1939, and the federal government has sent USDA agent Virginia Furman into the North Carolina mountains to instruct families on modernizing their homes and farms. There she meets farm wife Irenie Lambey, who is immediately drawn to the lady agent’s self-possession. Already, cracks are emerging in Irenie’s fragile marriage to Brodis, an ex-logger turned fundamentalist preacher: She has taken to night ramblings through the woods to escape her husband’s bed, storing strange keepsakes in a mountain cavern. To Brodis, these are all the signs that Irenie—tiptoeing through the dark in her billowing white nightshirt—is practicing black magic.
When Irenie slips back into bed with a kind of supernatural stealth, Brodis senses that a certain evil has entered his life, linked to the lady agent, or perhaps to other, more sinister forces.
Working in the stylistic terrain of Amy Greene and Bonnie Jo Campbell, this mesmerizing debut by Julia Franks is the story of a woman intrigued by the possibility of change, escape, and reproductive choice—stalked by a Bible-haunted man who fears his government and stakes his integrity upon an older way of life. As Brodis chases his demons, he brings about a final act of violence that shakes the entire valley. In this spellbinding Southern story, Franks bares the myths and mysteries that modernity can’t quite dispel.
“With careful attention given to the Appalachian landscape and an intimate feel for the tensions of society played out within a single family, the novel is a striking portrait of a place in transition, told by a gifted storyteller.” —Electric Literature
“A spellbinding story of witchcraft and disobedience.” —National Public Radio
"Over the Plain Houses had me enthralled from beginning to end. This beautifully written, carefully constructed, and richly detailed novel swept me away to another time and place—rural Appalachia during the Great Depression. Ms. Franks conveys a vibrant, here-and-now authenticity to this setting, but, much more than that, she plunged me into an absorbing human drama of marital discontent, misunderstanding, violence, and desperation. What a spellbinding, convincing, and completely satisfying novel this is!" —Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried
“As Southern Appalachian women, we need to tell our own stories, and Julia Franks does this in prose as starkly beautiful as the Depression-era mountain landscape her characters inhabit.” —Amy Greene, author of Long Man and Bloodroot
"Julia Franks writes wonderfully and knowledgeably about nature, with a fine eye for the textures of the physical world. Her ear for the diction and rhythm and creativity of Southern mountain speech delights on every page." —Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain and Nightwoods
"The best historical fiction conjures the past while speaking to the present. Over the Plain Houses is an absorbing, twisty, suspenseful story of a couple’s rupturing marriage in a time and place wracked by change. It is also a timely cautionary tale about the dangers of a mind hardened by fear and zealotry. Precisely observed, exquisitely written, Julia Franks’ debut novel is a work of stunning emotional depth and clarity that is destined to become a Southern classic." —Kim Church, author of Byrd, winner of the Crook's Corner Book Prize
"With cool but compassionate vision, Julia Franks allows spouses Irenie and Brodis to emerge as fully formed human beings: desperate to be freed, to be saved, to be something else entirely. Over the Plain Houses masterfully depicts the geographical and social landscapes of the 1930s American South, and in Julia Franks' hands this story about a marriage and a place expands beyond all confines and into something as gripping and as haunting as a fever dream." —Michelle Wildgen, author of You're Not You and Bread and Butter
"Every now and then you find a book that is so enthralling and alive with characters that when it begins to build suspense you find yourself breathless as you read. There is a touch of Faulkner here, but Hawthorne as well. Brodis Lambey is a memorable creation, a man out of darkness and evil, representing his own brand of religious fervor. And his long suffering wife, Irenie, his son Matthew, have their own demons to confront. When Brodis becomes convinced his wife may be a witch, the story unfolds and moves like an express train. This one is a winner." —Robert Bausch author of Far as the Eye Can See, The Gypsy Man, Almighty Me
“Franks' debut is a thoughtful exploration of one woman's quest to live life on her own terms.” —Kirkus Reviews