Category Archives: Holding On To Nothing

Review: Holding On To Nothing by Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne

Title: Holding On To Nothing by Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne
Publisher: Blair
Genre: Contemporary, Southern Fiction
Length: 259 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


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 by Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne is a raw and gritty novel about life in a small town in East Tennessee.

Lucy Kilgore has suffered the heartrending loss of her parents but her mom’s best friend LouEllen Moss stepped in to raise her. The town is also very supportive of their golden girl as her plans to go to college are on the verge of coming to fruition. Lucy works two jobs in order to save up enough money to leave but an ill-advised, impulsive decision alters her future. Pregnant after drunken one-night stand with Jeptha Taylor, Lucy’s dream of creating a family is within reach, but can she trust Jeptha to take care of her and their unborn baby?

Jeptha is a talented musician but he lives up to his reputation as a aimless drunk.  His feelings for Lucy are well-known and he is hopeful their one-night stand will lead to a relationship. At first rebuffed by Lucy, Jeptha is surprised when she suggests they date. However, his low self-esteem and dysfunctional siblings cause self-doubts that sabotage his chance with Lucy.

After discovering Lucy’s pregnancy, Jeptha leaps at the opportunity to stop drinking and prove to her that he is up to the challenge of providing a stable home for her and their baby. But Jeptha’s sobriety is precarious and his reputation makes it virtually impossible to find a steady job. Nonetheless, Jeptha wins Lucy’s heart but is their fragile relationship up to the challenges that await them?

Holding On To Nothing is a truly captivating novel that is heartbreaking yet hopeful. Jeptha and Lucy are beautifully rendered characters who breathtakingly life-like.  Life in a small town is realistically portrayed and the residents are vividly drawn.  A thought-provoking, poignant and sorrowful debut by Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne that will linger in readers’ minds long after the last page is turned.

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Filed under Blair, Contemporary, Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne, Holding On To Nothing, Rated B+, Review, Southern Fiction