Category Archives: Southern Fiction

Review: The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington

Title: The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Genre: Historical (’80s), Southern Fiction, Coming of Age
Length: 315 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


When Charlie Boykin was young, he thought his life with his single mother on the working-class side of Nashville was perfectly fine. But when his mother arranges for him to be admitted as a scholarship student to an elite private school, he is suddenly introduced to what the world can feel like to someone cushioned by money. That world, he discovers, is an almost irresistible place where one can bend—and break—rules and still end up untarnished. As he gets drawn into a friendship with a charismatic upperclassman, Archer Creigh, and an affluent family that treats him like an adopted son, Charlie quickly adapts to life in the upper echelons of Nashville society. Under their charming and alcohol-soaked spell, how can he not relax and enjoy it all—the lack of anxiety over money, the easy summers spent poolside at perfectly appointed mansions, the lavish parties, the freedom to make mistakes knowing that everything can be glossed over or fixed?

But over time, Charlie is increasingly pulled into covering for Archer’s constant deceits and his casual bigotry. At what point will the attraction of wealth and prestige wear off enough for Charlie to take a stand—and will he?

The Fortunate Ones is an immersive, elegantly written story that conveys both the seductiveness of this world and the corruption of the people who see their ascent to the top as their birthright.


The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington is a riveting coming of age novel set in Nashville, TN.

Raised by his single mother, Bonnie, Charlie Boykin’s father died in Vietnam before he was born. He and his mom live with his cousin in an impoverished part of Nashville.  His mother works as a cocktail waitress and money is extremely tight. But his life drastically changes when Bonnie secures Charlie a scholarship to a private school.  He is befriended by Archer “Arch” Creigh and Charlie is suddenly thrust into a world of wealth and privilege.  With his future secure, will Charlie continue to enjoy the life to which he has grown  accustomed?

Having never known any other life, Charlie is happy living with Bonnie and her cousin Sunny. He is best friends with Terrence Robie, who protects him from bullies.  Charlie is a good student who stays out of trouble so he is surprised when Bonnie moves him to the private school. He continues living in the poor section of town while going to a posh school and hanging out with wealthy friends.  But when Bonnie begins working for one of his friend’s family, they move into her new boss’s carriage house. Now living a very comfortable life, Charlie leaves his humble beginnings behind.

After graduation, Charlie’s life takes a drastic turn and he starts a new life far away from TN.  Making a name for himself as an artist, he is living with friends when Arch suddenly reappears in his life. Afterward, Charlie is drawn back into the wealthy life he ran away from ten years earlier.  At first supporting Arch’s rise in politics, Charlie again considers walking away once he realizes Arch’s political ambition is more important than his principles.

The Fortunate Ones is an engrossing novel with an interesting storyline. Charlie is a complex man who is quite introspective once he is much older. The plot is engaging and readers will find it easy to become entangled in Charlie’s world. With some unexpected twists and turns,  Ed Tarkington brings this well-written and enthralling novel to a thought-provoking conclusion. I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this multi-layered novel to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Algonquin Books, Coming of Age, Ed Tarkington, Rated B+, Review, Southern Fiction, The Fortunate Ones

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