Thursday 25 May 2023

Sidle Creek by Jolene McIlwain BLOG TOUR #SidleCreek @jolene_mcilwain @melvillehouse @NikkiTGriffiths #BookReview


Set in the bruised, mined, and timbered hills of Appalachia in western Pennsylvania, Sidle Creek is a tender, truthful exploration of a small town and the people who live there, told by a brilliant new voice in fiction.

In Sidle Creek, McIlwain skillfully interrogates the myths and stereotypes of the mining, mill, and farming towns where she grew up. With stories that take place in diners and dive bars, town halls and bait shops, McIlwain's writing explores themes of class, work, health, and trauma, and the unexpected human connections of small, close-knit communities. All the while, the wild beauty of the natural world weaves its way in, a source of the town's livelihood - and vulnerable to natural resource exploitation.

With an alchemic blend of taut prose, gorgeous imagery, and deep sensitivity for all of the living beings within its pages, Sidle Creek will sit snugly on bookshelves between Annie Proulx, Joy Williams, and Louise Erdrich.

Sidle Creek by Jolene McIlwain was published on 18 May 2023 by Melville House. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy as part of this Blog Tour.

Sidle Creek is a collection of twenty-two short stories, all set around Sidle Creek, a river than runs through a small town in the hills of Appalachia, western Pennsylvania.

I don't read a lot of short stories, but can recommend this beautifully written collection from an author who writes with such confidence and truth. The stories range from very very short, at just over a page long, to those that take up many pages, and each and every one of them is masterfully created. 

There are some very very dark themes within these stories, reflecting the diversity of the community that they capture. There are a couple of tales in this book that will stay with me forever, they are extremely emotionally challenging at times, with writing that conjures up the most precise images. 

The flowing Sidle Creek runs throughout these stories, it's not a large piece of water but it is surrounded by myth and local folk lore. It is claimed that is has healing properties and these feature in at least three of the stories. 

At its heart though, this is a story of people and community and how they survive. Whilst there are many tales of how the local folk look out for each other, how they care and how they band together, there are also touches of violence and how sometimes, the local people cannot help, no matter how much they try to. 

At times startling, at other times heart breaking, Sidle Creek is a collection of stories that will evoke a range of emotions from the reader. I am so glad to have discovered this author's writing. 

Jolene McIlwain's fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and appears in West Branch, Florida Review, Cincinnati Review, New Orleans Review, Northern Appalachia Review, and 2019's Best Small Fictions Anthology. 

Her work was named finalist for 2018's Best of the Net, Glimmer Train's and River Styx's contests, and semifinalist in Nimrod's Katherine Anne Porter Prize and two American Short Fiction's contests. 

She's received a Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council grant, the Georgia Court Chautauqua faculty scholarship, and Tinker Mountain's merit scholarship. 

She's taught literary theory/analysis at Duquesne and Chatham Universities and she worked as a radiologic technologist before attending college (BS English, minor in sculpture, MA Literature). 

She was born, raised, and currently lives in a small town in the Appalachian plateau of Western Pennsylvania.

Instagram @jolenemcilwain

No comments:

Post a Comment