February 2016 Indie Next List Pick
This snappy, sassy redemption story set in small-town Montana is “a wild and crazy debut novel by a talented young writer” (Jackie Collins), filled with an uproarious and unforgettable cast of characters you won’t want to leave behind.
“[The Flood Girls] includes barfights and AA meetings, a parade, a wedding, and a black bear, all of which Fifield juggles beautifully...The Wild West earns its name all over again in this lovable chronicle of small-town insanity.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Welcome to Quinn, Montana, population: 956. A town where nearly all of the volunteer firemen are named Jim, where The Dirty Shame—the only bar in town—refuses to serve mixed drinks (too much work), where the locals hate the newcomers (then again, they hate the locals, too), and where the town softball team has never even come close to having a winning season. Until now.
Rachel Flood has snuck back into town after leaving behind a trail of chaos nine years prior. She’s here to make amends, but nobody wants to hear it, especially her mother, Laverna. But with the help of a local boy named Jake and a little soul-searching, she just might make things right.
In the spirit of Empire Falls and A League of Their Own, with the caustic wit of Where’d You Go, Bernadette thrown in for good measure, Richard Fifield’s hilarious and heartwarming debut will have you laughing through tears.
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Richard Fifield earned his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College in upstate New York. For the past twenty years he has worked as a social worker for adults with intellectual disabilities, while volunteering as a creative writing teacher in Missoula, Montana.
Read an Excerpt
The Flood Girls
Every night, Frank played harmonica for the cats.
Jake Bailey watched as the feral creatures emerged from the carcass of a 1978 Ford Granada, from the piles of fiberglass insulation beneath the skeleton of a trailer that had been immolated by fire. The cats were skittish around people, yet they came to his neighbor’s yard each evening. At seven o’clock sharp, Frank would play his harmonica and put out cans of food, and the cats would gather and rub up against his legs.
The two would talk to each other, while Jake sat in a lawn chair on the roof of his trailer house. Jake’s mother, Krystal, found it odd that Frank talked at all, told Jake that Frank was the shyest person in Quinn, the only permanent stranger in a town of 956. Unlike Frank, his mother was well known, and as a nurse, she was useful. His mother refused to wear any makeup, despite her thin lips. Krystal had enormous green eyes and glossy brown hair that hung past her shoulder blades, content to be a natural beauty. She wore her hospital scrubs at home, and no jewelry. Jake found it frustrating to shop for his mother.
Jake had been coming to the rooftop since he was seven years old, when Krystal stopped noticing what he was doing as long as he was in the yard. From the roof, Jake could see all of the trailer court and parts of the town. He was twelve now, and he no longer spied on his neighbors. After five years, he realized that they were gross. Now he came to the roof for refuge. The space belonged to him, and he furnished it with a lawn chair and a waterproof tub that held his paperbacks, a parasol, and a pile of cassette singles. He sat on the roof through most of the year, sat there for hours, even in winter, when he sat until he could no longer bear it. His perch had revealed who was having affairs with the UPS man, who was eating too much when they thought nobody was watching, who was stealing checks from mailboxes. Jake was not a private detective, but he had a private-detective outfit. He also had several piles of polyester leisure suits and a complete set of motorcycle leathers.
Jake listened only to Madonna when he was on the roof. He listened to Madonna and watched the sky instead of the dirty loop of trailer houses; it was too painful to regard his tiny universe, the town seemed so foreshortened and filthy. His Walkman had a voracious appetite, and Jake had lost many cassettes, had tried to repair the ribbon when it stretched and wound until it broke. He fixed most of them with a cunning little piece of Scotch tape, and it usually worked, only a little blip and squeal before the gospel choir kicked in during “Like a Prayer.”
He had found rosary beads at the thrift store, and he wore these as he listened to Madonna, even though he was not religious. He wore three necklaces at a time: glass, baby-blue stones, and wood. He knew he was supposed to say a prayer and finger every bead, but instead he named his enemies. It seemed impossible that he had fifty-nine enemies, but the football team took up thirty-two, and there were twenty-seven other bullies and assholes in town. According to Jake’s math, he disliked one-sixteenth of the town. Frank was not one of them.
The cats came around despite the freezing weather. Some nights, Frank built a tiny fire in a washtub. He played his harmonica, surrounded by piles of empty cans of cat food, and the flames shone on the tins and cast the snowy yard in waves of reflected light.
When Frank wasn’t playing music, he recited facts and observations to Jake: the harmonica was the Special 20, model number 560 manufactured by Hohner, plastic comb instead of wooden. Frank told Jake that feral cats woke at four in the afternoon, that their hunting parties went out at six, and then they went back to sleep after he fed them. The cats woke again at three in the morning, foraged for the next three hours, slept all day. Jake thought that they were much like Bert, Krystal’s boyfriend.
Bert was a human barnacle that had attached itself to Jake and Krystal’s trailer house in 1989. He courted them with shopping trips to Spokane, boxes of garage sale books, a new furnace for the trailer. He promised to be a father figure. As soon as Bert moved in, he never moved again, leaving the couch only to go to the bar. He was surly and possessive, drunk and useless, and worst of all, fertile. Krystal was pregnant within a month.
Before Bert came, Frank had built a small storage shed for Jake, shoved up against the siding, between the back door and Jake’s bedroom window. Frank knew that Jake’s thrift store purchases were piled to the ceiling in his bedroom, each article of clothing perfectly folded but sandwiched so tightly that Jake was constantly ironing. Frank worked silently, building the shed out of cedar, so Jake’s clothes would smell less like old people and more like expensive people. He added a gambrel roof, sturdy enough to support Jake’s weight. Now Jake could climb out of his bedroom window and use the roof of the storage shed to push himself up to the flat metal panels on the top of the trailer house.
After Bert moved in, Frank built a privacy fence around his entire property in the summer of 1990. Bert had started trapping Frank’s feral cats in the alley, collecting them in metal cages. He drove to the boating launch and threw the cages in the shallows of the river. Bert described this process in detail but was secretive about what he did with the bodies. Frank’s fence was six feet high, enough to shield Frank from the sight of Bert drinking in the yard, the sight of Bert entirely.
Jake’s best friend, Misty, lived with her mother on the left side of Frank’s new fence. They had grown up together in the trailer court, walking endlessly around the unpaved loop of twenty-six houses and a Laundromat, throwing rocks at swallows’ nests. Misty blasted heavy metal at all hours.
Bert caused just as much commotion. When he had no one to fight with, Bert fought with himself, and loudly. Bert was the kind of drunk who fell on and off the wagon so many times that he called everybody at the bar by their last names and everybody at AA meetings by their first.
Frank was surrounded by this chaos but never called the cops. He was meek, a slight man with a thick dark beard. When he wasn’t feeding the cats, he watched the mountains with binoculars. He told Jake that he used to spend his summers in the fire lookouts and that these habits were hard to break. He looked for fire, even in the winter. Frank wore only bright yellow work shirts and dark green pants, and he told Jake that he had retired early from the Forest Service but never explained why.
The week before Christmas, Jake combed through the thrift shop, found several suits that looked like they would fit. Frank was silent when Jake brought them to his front porch, wrapped carefully, freshly cleaned by hand.
“I guessed your sizes,” Jake said. Frank said nothing, just accepted the neatly folded pile. “I thought you would look best in earth tones,” explained Jake. “Browns and greens, mostly. You’ll love the ties. I even found one with pine trees. There’s also a gray-and-red plaid jacket, and I figured you could wear it with blue jeans. Do you own any blue jeans?”
Frank remained silent.
The next night, Jake took his place on the roof, careful not to trip on the wires of Christmas lights Krystal had draped over the gutters. He had finally bought the entire “Like a Prayer” album, and a different rosary for every track, upping his collection to fourteen. Plastic or pearl, he had a necklace for every song and wore them on the outside of his snowsuit. He wrapped himself in blankets; the lawn chair was covered in new snow, and he sat on a plastic bag so his pants wouldn’t get wet. Frank began his concert for the cats, but ended it early after only twenty minutes. He blew into his bare hands, which must have been frozen; Frank could not play harmonica with mittens. The cats ate greedily, and Jake watched a skinny pair fight over a can of pork and beans. Inside the trailer, Jake and Frank could hear Krystal and Bert fighting about getting cable television, and their new baby was crying. Frank walked over to the fence and threw the harmonica up to Jake, and then he turned away and went inside his house, without speaking a word.
The ambulance came the next day. Krystal heard the details on the police scanner and told Jake to go to his room. He watched out his window as the volunteer firemen came in their massive vehicles, followed closely by the van of the volunteer ambulance. There were no sirens. Then the cars came to the trailer court—the onlookers. It was as if every person who lived in town had heard the dispatch on the police scanner. Jake snuck out of his window and found Misty on the street. Even in the freezing cold, Bert lay drunkenly in the yard, tangled up in a lawn chair, but the crowd paid no attention. Misty and Jake hid in the alley, behind a Dumpster that was missing a wheel, and Misty smoked a cigarette as the volunteer fire department surrounded the stretcher.
Jake and Misty watched as they brought out Frank’s body.
“I bet it was suicide,” pronounced Misty. “That’s fucking hard-core.”
“He never told me he was sad,” said Jake.
“I wonder if he used a gun,” said Misty.
They watched until they were spotted by Krystal. “You shouldn’t be seeing this!” she yelled at them as they tried to cower behind the Dumpster.
The winter grew thicker and darker, and Jake still thought of Frank. He kept the harmonica under his bed. Every morning, Jake shoved open the back door, kicked at the snow that had piled upon the cinder blocks of the back steps, and trudged in his slippers to the storage shed. He thought of Frank as he picked out his clothes for the day. Krystal would not speak of Frank’s death, would not declare it a suicide. Bert claimed that the cats had eaten him.
For a few weeks, Jake bought cat food and stood in Frank’s backyard. The cats came, but Jake could only hum. Jake hung his glass rosary on Frank’s doorknob. The last week of January, Bert caught him and gave him a split lip for trespassing.
After that, Jake watched from the roof as the cats came around for a few more days, mewling and licking at the empty cans. Eventually, they found somewhere else to go. Jake hoped they were welcomed and serenaded, hoped they had found a new home.
By the time Jake’s lip healed, there were no more cats. Bert had trapped them all, Frank was gone, and only the harmonica remained. Frank’s yard and trailer stayed untouched, the snow piling in deeper drifts around the front door.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for The Flood Girls includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Richard Fifield. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
In the tiny, isolated town of Quinn, Montana, Laverna Flood owns and operates the Dirty Shame, a local watering hole patronized by day-drinking lesbian silver miners and a variety of alcoholics, and moonlights as the coach of the Flood Girls, an all-women’s softball team that has never had a winning season. When her prodigal daughter Rachel returns after a nine-year absence, newly sober and hoping to redeem herself after sleeping with most of Quinn’s male population (including her mother’s boyfriend), Laverna plans on maintaining the silent treatment—until her right fielder suddenly quits, forcing her to put Rachel on the Flood Girls’ roster.
As Rachel reacquaints herself with Quinn and does her best to get past that stubborn Step 9 (it’s difficult to make amends when your entire hometown refuses to read your apology letters), she forms an unlikely friendship with Jake, a flamboyant twelve year old with exquisite taste, a vast second-hand wardrobe, and a long list of persecutors. Over the course of the Flood Girls’ first-ever winning season, Rachel finds comfort, self-acceptance, and a support system that gets her through the hardest of losses, both on and off the field.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Laverna is a commanding—and often feared—presence in Quinn. Discuss Fifield’s depiction of Laverna. Would you describe her as an anti-hero? How does she act as both a divisive and a unifying force?
2. Fifield uncovers Rachel’s dark past slowly over the course of the book. How did your impression of Rachel change as you discovered more about her backstory? Ultimately, did you see her as a sympathetic character, despite her transgressions?
3. Discuss Jake’s and Rachel’s unlikely friendship. How do the two find common ground? What do they learn from each other?
4. How do Rachel and Laverna evolve over the course of the book? What experiences and life lessons allow them to overcome their years-long rift?
5. Redemption and forgiveness are two major themes of The Flood Girls. Discuss the ways in which Rachel, Laverna, Bert, and Krystal attempt to make amends for their mistakes. How successful are they?
6. After recounting Quinn’s history of devastating fires, Fifield writes, “The whole town seemed to be waiting for the flames to return” (pg. 30). How does this sentiment resonate throughout the storyline? In your opinion, is The Flood Girls a hopeful novel?
7. The Flood Girls tackles serious issues like discrimination and addiction, but it is peppered with moments of surprising humor and levity. What was your favorite moment of comic relief?
8. As Rachel observes children in sleds pulled along by their dads’ four wheelers, she thinks, “This was how you survived the winter in Quinn . . . Sometimes you had to let other people pull you” (pg. 109). Discuss how the characters in The Flood Girls allow others to help them, often in unexpected ways. Did any of these moments surprise you? Why?
9. Many of the characters are guided by religion and spirituality, from Bert’s evangelism to Rachel’s higher power to Jake’s rosary beads. What, in your opinion, does The Flood Girls have to say about religion?
10. Why do you think Fifield decided to bookmark The Flood Girls with two deaths? What are the legacies that Frank and Jake leave behind?
11. The Flood Girls features an unforgettable ensemble cast, from the braless and tempestuous Red Mabel to meth-addled Black Mabel to big-hearted and big-toothed Bucky. Who was your favorite secondary character, and why?
12. In what ways does the landscape of Quinn, with its bitter snowstorms, bear invasions, and lack of street signs, traffic lights, and sidewalks, function as a character in The Flood Girls? How does the setting influence the course of events in the novel?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Host a Flood Girls–inspired movie night and watch A League of Their Own.
2. Learn to cross-stitch with your book club. (Bonus points if you cross-stitch while listening to Madonna.)
3. Pick a team name for your book club and design uniforms together. (Bonus points if you cross-stitch the design yourselves—while listening to Madonna.)
4. Learn more about the author by visiting his website (www.richardfifield.com), and by following him on Twitter (@richard_fifield) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/richardfifieldthefloodgirls).
A Conversation with Richard Fifield
You indicate in the author’s note that Jake’s storyline is semiautobiographical. How are you and Jake similar? How are you different? Aside from Jake, are there any other characters in particular that you relate to?
Jake and I are both from a small town in Montana. He dressed much better than I, however. I only wish I had his fashion sense! We both relied on Jackie Collins and Madonna for a taste of life outside the mountains. Like Jake, I stuck out from the crowd, and could not help it. Jake has a rough life, but I was fortunate enough to have a tremendously supportive family. There were certainly bullies growing up, but I always had a pack of girlfriends that offered love and camaraderie, and most important, protection. My real hometown is a much more nuanced place—the people of Troy are amazing. I was probably more like Misty as a child—I was definitely a handful. I relate to Rachel’s reckless faith, but also Laverna’s need for control.
Which character was the most fun to write? Which was the most challenging for you?
My favorite character to write was Laverna, which should come as no surprise. I thought that Rachel would be the easiest to write, as our journey has been so similar, but giving her depth was a challenge at times.
Did the process of writing The Flood Girls change the way in which you view your real-life hometown?
Most definitely! When I was growing up, all I could think of was getting out as quickly as possible. I hated it. Getting older, and writing this book, and practicing forgiveness have all made me realize how lucky I was. I’m from the last generation before the Internet, and I was forced to create my own entertainment. Dreaming and writing were my escapes.
What was the revision process like for you, particularly given that you wrote the first draft of The Flood Girls so quickly?
Editing is painful. There is no better feeling than filling pages while writing a rough draft, but editing is like math, addition, and subtraction. I hate math. Writing a book is like having a baby, but then you have to wait months to find out if your baby is cute or completely horrendous. This process has taught me so much about patience, and most important, letting go. I am so thankful that I had such great readers and editors—Jenny Bent and Alison Callahan were invaluable, and I trusted them completely.
You depict many different examples of drug and alcohol abuse in The Flood Girls. What would you most like your readers to take away from your novel regarding the nature of addiction?
For me, it’s really about faith. Rachel tries to push her way through recovery, and I know that doesn’t work. I have learned that I am powerless over people, places, and things. All I can control is my effort, and my reaction. Everything else is out of my hands. I’m sure that is why I am drawn to fiction—I can still control what happens, without having to make an amends!
What do you think the future holds for your characters beyond the ending of the book? Will the Flood Girls improve upon their first winning season?
If it were up to me, I would only write about the Flood Girls for the rest of my life! I am madly in love with every character. I want to know what happens to them! Laverna needs a trophy, dammit.
Does Jake take after you in listening to music while he works? If so, what is your writing soundtrack?
Absolutely. I cannot write in silence—I have an unquiet mind! I must have music, and I am a Type A Gay Virgo—each character had a playlist that I loved curating. Jake’s soundtrack had lots of Florence and the Machine, Sinead O’Connor, and the Cure. And tons of house music from the ’80s and ’90s—especially all of my cherished Madonna remixes. When writing Rachel, I listened to Patty Griffin, and only Patty Griffin. Her music devastates me, and makes me write honestly and with grace. Laverna, on the other hand, had a playlist full of Don Williams, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, the Judds, and Miranda Lambert. It was totally the jukebox at the Dirty Shame!
Who are your biggest literary influences? What inspires you to write?
Anne Tyler, without a doubt. She can do no wrong. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is a book I reread every year. Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn, is probably my favorite book of all time—I read it at a very young age, and learned that there are no boundaries in fiction. That book is FEARLESS, and should be canonized. I’m also obsessed with Ann Patchett, John Irving, Richard Russo, Barbara Kingsolver, John Updike, Kate Atkinson, Truman Capote, and Jackie Collins, of course.
Who would you cast in the movie version of The Flood Girls?
Jake would have to be an unknown—I know there is a fabulous kid on Youtube somewhere that would be perfect for the part. I always imagined Jennifer Lawrence as Rachel—she just has this strength and quiet sadness that I am drawn to. Laverna is hard to cast; there are so many actresses that I admire for their ferocity—Alison Janney, Vera Farmiga, Tilda Swinton, Julianne Moore. Although she seems an odd choice, Reese Witherspoon would be perfect for Laverna—the character is an adult version of Tracy Flick from Election.
What are you working on next?
Hopefully, more Flood Girls novels! Currently, I’m writing a horror novel, just because I wanted to write something completely different. I’d love to write a novel about NYC in 1990—I’m obsessed with the supermodels (Naomi, Linda, Christy, etc.) and the drag ballroom scene. Paris Is Burning meets Gia. It’s just an honor to be a writer, and it is truly a pleasure to entertain people. I’m looking forward to the future!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
MY, MY, MY!!!! I am struggling to form a coherent sentence after finishing this tale!!! This novel started slowly for me. But, it wasn’t long till I was vested in the wacky characters and not long after that…I couldn’t stop thinking about them. There are a good many characters in the read, however this tale would not be complete without a single one of them. Each individual is unique and has their own set of problems. The story would not work at all without each persons’ quirkiness. I am super amazed at this authors ability to pull in the reader and play on the emotions. I was on an airplane when I arrived at a real emotional part. I am not a crier. There have been a paltry amount of books that have made me cry. Let me tell you, if I had been at the end of this book at home, I would’ve been a basket case. Took me completely by surprise. The story is crass and sarcastic, but developed into an amazing read. One spot irked me a little and I hope someone catches it. I am a pharmacist and the author misspelled a drug…I know minor, and yes, it is so minor. But, it is easily fixed and should have been caught. Xanax is not Zanax. OK! OFF SOAP BOX! Now….go get this read today!!
Dollycas’s Thoughts Needing a little change from the mysteries I usually read I jumped at the opportunity to review this book and am I glad I did. Growing up in a small town, my family owned and operated a tavern and we even sponsored a baseball team so I felt right at home in Quinn and The Dirty Shame. We meet Rachel who has come home to make amends to the people she wronged in her past. Yes, she’s in Alcoholics Anonymous. Since letters didn’t work she has decided to do them in person. She is not welcomed with open arms but a spot on the baseball team and meeting a boy named Jake may help her to complete this very important step. She also attends a local AA meeting and receives support from some surprising people. Rachel left a bit of chaos when she left town. She slept with a lot of guys, single and married. I know growing up in a tavern environment can be difficult, thankfully I had strong, loving parents guiding my way but I gave them some gray hairs too. Rachel’s life was nowhere close to mine. Her mother worked a lot and was emotionally unavailable and Rachel took an unsurprising path. She gets a second chance. The people of Quinn are a tight knit group. Will they accept Rachel’s apologies? Richard Fifield has hit a home run with this debut. All of these characters, and there are many, are so well developed they positively leap off the pages. At first I had a little trouble keeping everyone straight but soon the vast personalities grew and it became easy. From the main characters to the bar patrons, the ladies on the baseball team, the firemen and everyone Rachel came in connect with, they were all believable characters. They are a pretty rough and tumble bunch. Their lives have not been easy and some tough times take place within the pages. The young man Rachel befriends has been struggling with his identity mostly because of his home life. His step father just can’t accept that he is gay and things take a huge and and very unexpected, at least by me, dark turn. I was afraid something was going to happen and when it did, it stopped me cold. Fifield also knows to set the scene, the bar, the baseball fields, the trailer parks, his descriptions were fantastic. His pacing was perfect. The dialogue was great too, whether a phrase filled with sarcasm or a heart warming talk, or anywhere in between. I enjoy reading stories that make me feel an abundance of emotions and this story truly did that. I can’t say I laughed out loud or say it “hilarious”, but there were some funny moments. There were some uplifting moments as well. It is the heartbreaking ones that are going to stick with me. I have a picture in my head that will be in there a long time. I think this story would be an outstanding choice for a book club. I know there would be some great discussions. I wish I belonged to one because I would love to talk about this book with others.
What would it be like if you returned to your hometown after a scandal? This was an especially good book on many levels. I was surprised (though I shouldn't be) it was a debut novel because the author's voice is so mature and comfortable to listen to. Critics have compared it to Empire Falls and League of Their Own and it's a fair assumption that if you read and like those, you will also like this. But I found this to be a bit heavier, but in a light handed way, if that makes any sense. The characters are vivid and lovingly revealed. I felt as though I knew most of them in some form or another in my life. The setting is also familiar but I've never been to Montana. It is just that the book makes you a part of the community and it's remarkable how familiar you become with the surroundings. I laughed out loud and wept my way through the chapters. It is not a comedic romp as some early critics have described it. This book is built upon the understanding and realization of redemption. It has its roots in the author's real life and when you realize this you will wish you could hug him. Don't let this one pass you by.
Ugh, my grandson is coming over in seven hours and I don't want to put this book down. 35% to go and I have to put it down. This one will definitely get a good review. I absolutely loved this book! I loved the story, the quirky characters and even the cover!! It was about people helping people, people hating people, sadness, family turbulence, heavy on dysfunctional, friendship, BS, bullying, alcoholism, softball, gossiping, rumors, and an angel. There were so many quirky characters, I have never seen so many in one book. I laughed, I cried and I got mad. I was very sad when the book was over. I definitely did not want to leave these people. I felt as though they had become a part of me. I really got to know them, to see their weaknesses, their shortcomings and their assets, many of which tried to keep them hidden, only exposing their gruff side. A wonderfully written book that I am so glad I had the opportunity to read and review. Thank you Gallery, Threshold and Pocket Books and Net Galley for providing me the free e-galley with the means to be able to do so in exchange for an honest review. DEFINITELY A MUST READ!!
Magnificent! Bravo! I just finished reading this novel and my eyes have now cleared and I can see my computer again. What an outstanding conclusion, one that spoke volumes for the people of Quinn. The town of Quinn, if you happened to drive into town, you’d be meet with some of the most outspoken, outlandish and unique individuals you have ever meet. It’s a small town where gossip is cheap, liquor brings the people together and your past haunts you. Opening the novel, I found myself with Frank as he calls to the cats around his trailer park using his harmonic, same time and same place, every day. This town likes consistency and order. Twelve-year old Jake would watch from his roof next door, stretched out in a lawn chair watching the scene unfold. Frank and Jake had a special bond, these two were watchers and everyday they were in their own world, yet they were together. I really fell for these two, they had something special and sometimes no words had to be spoken. When Rachel returns to her hometown, most of the citizens are not happy to see her including her mother. Returning to a town where alcohol is part of the entertainment, Rachel is now in AA and she is trying to make amends for her previous actions. I can see immediately where Rachel’s loose behavior and outspoken voice have sprouted from, as her mother Laverna is quite a bold individual. This assertive woman is not afraid to speak her mind with her rude, over-bearing remarks. There were times I was embarrassed to read what was coming from her mouth and other times, she had me in stitches, you just never knew what was going to come out of her mouth. Owning one of the two pubs in town and coaching the woman’s softball league, The Flood Girls, Laverna left her mark throughout the town. The novel is about more than The Flood Girls as Rachel tries to make amends for her past. As I finally got comfortable with the writings of the author, I began to follow Rachel in her journey to rediscover the town of Quinn and make restitution. People don’t change much over time and their opinions don’t necessarily change especially if you have injured a part of them. Rachel left with a reputation and the town still sees that girl. Moving into her father’s old trailer, she becomes friends with Jake. Jake with his suits, his ties, and his fancy shoes where other teens are wearing shorts and t-shirts, she sees Jake for what he is. Jake filled my heart with his style, with his way of looking at the world and with his way of just watching. The day of Jake’s thirteenth birthday had to be one of the most special parts of this book for me. I would pay to go see a game played by The Flood Girls; the entertainment value would be priceless. The author’s descriptions had me grinning and laughing as she describes the team. Their uniforms or lack of uniforms, their attempts at the game, the girl’s demeanor and their coach’s attitude, and let’s not forget about the fans. All of this was part of this entertainment value and made them, the famous Flood Girls. I really enjoyed this novel, the glimpse inside the town of Quinn. I will miss the sticky floors of The Dirty Shame, the Sinclairs, I wonder what will happen to Rachel but most of all, I will miss Jake and his thrift shop treasures. I received an ecopy of this novel from NetGalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books in exchange for an honest review. I also received a physical copy of this novel in a Goodreads giveaway- thanks Gallery books! (
If Fannie Flagg worries that she has no heir, she can relax; Richard Fifield is here. The Flood Girls is his brilliant debut, and you have to read it! Fifield will cut out your heart and feed it to you with a rusty spoon, and he’ll make you like it, too. Hey, he’ll even make you laugh through it. I got the DRC free via Net Galley and Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review; this one is a standout and a new personal favorite. From his arresting first line to the deeply satisfying ending, I was completely bound up in this book.Let’s start with the premise: Rachel Flood has returned home to Quinn, Montana after many years away. She is here to make amends. It isn’t easy: “A small town never forgets, or forgives.” It’s a tough town, full of people that have survived dozens of harsh 6 month winters. Its people are abrupt and sometimes rude; they don’t suffer fools here. Ultimately, she is cornered into playing in the outfield of The Flood Girls, the local softball team sponsored by the mother she has wronged. She becomes a friend and mentor to Jake, a quirky twelve year old with a fondness for fine fabrics, wardrobe and design, and an intolerant right-wing Fundamentalist stepfather. Perhaps the most technically impressive aspect of this work is the way Fifield differentiates a very wide cast of characters. But it isn’t only the eccentric characters and the small town setting that makes me think of Flagg’s masterpiece, Fried Green Tomatoes; it is also the message. Fifield wants us to know that intolerance will kill us. It is only by accepting and celebrating one another’s differences and quirks that we become part of the human family. We must learn to help and rely upon each other, because we are all we have. That said, The Flood Girls shares Flagg’s spirit, yet it is not derivative, but wholly original. You don’t have to like baseball to enjoy it. This hilarious, engaging new novel is highly recommended!
Quirky Fun Read The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield is good small-town fiction. I picked it up because it was billed as “hilarious”; I was expecting something akin to the stage production, Greater Tuna. The Flood Girls does have some wry humor in it, but it didn’t make me chortle out loud while reading. Quinn, Montana where everyone knows your name and past transgressions, and everyone has a long memory is home to many quirky characters—956 to be exact. Rachel Flood left Quinn in disgrace and has returned to make amends, but the town folk don’t welcome her back with open arms. Jake, the young boy who lives next door, is the only person in the little run-down town who immediately accepts Rachel. He tags along as she makes amends with the people she hurt in the past (as prescribed in her 12 step program). I enjoyed each of the charmingly dysfunctional characters, but I loved Laverna, Rachel’s mom, and her women’s softball team. They were in a league of their own (pun intended). Fifield’s insight shows in his mastery of the female voice. I enjoyed his campy depiction of female camaraderie both on and off the softball field. He has filled Quinn, Montana with imperfect, wayward, and misguided individuals who you might not look at twice on the street, but if you really knew them, you’d know they’d have your back. The steady pace of the plot allows readers to fully enjoy the family drama, pithy dialogue, and Rachel’s odyssey for forgiveness. The homespun drama and humor make for an enjoyable read. Richard Fifield’s debut novel, The Flood Girls, is homespun, humorous drama perfect for fans of small town fiction. Visit the Book Junkie Reviews blog for more recommendations:
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the chance to read The Flood Girls advance copy. Richard Fifield has written an incredible debut novel. The story and the individuals in it will stay with me for a long time. The novel takes place in the small town of Quinn, Montana, population 965. The story is filled with a large number of truly entertaining characters, almost all of whom I enjoyed getting to know. The main character Rachel Flood heads home to Quinn after years of self imposed exile following a year of participating in Alcoholics Anonymous. Having previously lived a life of drugs and other excesses, she returns home to find peace by making amends with all of the townspeople she hurt before she escaped Quinn nine years earlier. However, no one is ready to reconcile with her. The story unfolds as Rachel tries to show the town she has changed. Jake and the Chief were my favorites characters. Jake is a truly unique teenager, and Richard Fifield did an amazing job depicting him. I loved all the Madonna, Jackie Collins, and Flowers in the Attic references. I also loved hearing about Jake's extensive wardrobe and how he acquired it. The Chief was also a wonderful character. He was such a stable influence for Rachel, and I loved his personality and influence in the town. While I am not sure I would want to love in Quinn, Montana, I relished the time I spent with the townspeople. Richard Fifield has written so many wonderful, ingenious passages. His writing is fabulous, and I found myself going back to reread many of the sentences that I highlighted the first time around. The publisher's description likens the humor of The Flood Girls to Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, and I completely agree with that comparison. The sly, clever wit is quite similar, and I found myself laughing out loud numerous times when reading both books. However, I needed tissues too for this book which contained a twist I didn't see coming. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this original, touching and non-formulaic novel and highly recommend it.
A black sheep returns to the fold and tries to atone for her very bad behavior in this book. But were her actions any worse than her own mother? Should that matter? I happen to be drawn to stories about small town life (the quirkier, the better!), so this book was a special treat. Rachel was a druggie and alcoholic as a teen and slept with most of the members of the town's volunteer fire department. Other than having an obnoxious mom who runs a bar, the book doesn't give much of an explanation for why she was so self-abusive. But I think the point of the story is that it doesn't matter. What matters is who she is now. As the novel begins, Rachel has been sober and following the AA 12-step program successfully. But there is one rung on the ladder to recovery that she can't seem to get past: making amends with those she hurt. There is a very long list of people to ask to be forgiven: all the wives of the men she slept with (even though she was under age and was actually a victim), her former best friend Crystal, her mom Laverna, and her toughest critic, herself. What I loved: Characters: I thought Rachel was one of the most realistic studies in a person coming to terms with their alcoholism that I have seen in a book to date. Even though she has been sober for nearly a year, that is only one of the issues in her life. She needs to make amends with so many people. But she also must, somehow, forgive herself. I appreciated that the author, Richard Fifield, didn't resort to scenes of Rachel looking longingly at a bottle to convey her struggle. There is so much more to healing than just not drinking. Aside from Rachel, there is a plethora of interesting characters. I loved the tween character Jake, and all the various "Flood Girls" on the local softball team. There are male characters that I hated from Jake's sleazy step-father Bert, to Reverend Foote, a preacher who oozed insincerity. But there were also solid guys such as "The Chief" who acts as Rachel's sobriety sponsor, and the sweet repair man who has a crush on Rachel. Rachel's mom, Laverna, is a special kind of messed up human-being. I appreciated how each individual had their problems and were fully-fleshed out people. Setting: I lived a large part of my life in a small town, and I remember those days well. For better or worse, everyone knew everyone else. Kids couldn't get away with much without their parents finding out about it. If you had a dispute with your neighbor, it could easily turn into a decades-long feud. This book has a lot of those little touches that make the town of Quinn, Montana come to life. I also liked that, while some people were desperate to leave for more cosmopolitan cities (particularly Jake who can't be openly gay in this town), many were content to live out their lives in Quinn. I could totally see the appeal. There can be something very comforting in small-town life. What I didn't like: The Ending: I was really saddened by what happens to one character. It was like watching an ant struggle to move up the hill only to see it crushed when it makes it to the top! The ending may have been realistic, but it was very unsatisfying. I work hard to NOT put spoilers in my reviews, so I can't say precisely what happened in the story. But I thought that, even if justice couldn't be served, the "Flood Girls" would have done more to make sure a certain someone got their comeuppance.
This is a unique story with some quirky characters. When I first started this story I wasn't sure how much I would like it. Well, it didn't take long to fall in love with these characters. Rachel is a broken but courageous lady that you will cheer for as the story progresses. Her best friend and neighbor, twelve year old Jake is absolutely intriguing. Following Rachel's journey was a delight and this is an author that I am excited to see more from. This is an enjoyable read that I would recommend to others.
I am still not sure how I feel about this book. I loved parts of it but thought other parts were a little too much. And that ending. I can't even. I was really hoping that everything would pull together for a feel good kind of ending. It wasn't a feel good ending. It was shocking and it broke my heart. I really have struggled with how to rate this book. I was really somewhere between a 3 and a 4 for most of the book. When I take the ending into consideration, I really have to go with 3 stars for this one. This book has one of the most colorful cast of characters that I can remember reading. Some of these characters were rude and abrasive most of the time. I did feel that the characters were a bit over the top at times. I didn't dislike most of the characters but I didn't feel any kind of connection to the majority of them either. There were a few stand outs in the cast that did get to me by the end of the story. Laverna took a long time to warm up to but once I understood her, I grew to like her. Bucky was awesome, Jake was perfect and I fell in love with him almost instantly. Rachel was really pretty easy to like as well. The majority of the book was told from Rachel's point of view. Rachel left her hometown of Quinn in disgrace. She is coming back after being gone for years because she wants to make amends as part of her recovery. Rachel has changed and is really a better person but she did a lot of terrible things while she was growing up in Quinn. She has a lot of patience and slowly works to change her life. She even plays for The Flood Girls even though she isn't a very good softball player. Watching Rachel make new connections and become a part of the small community again was interesting to watch. I did enjoy the narration in this audiobook. Kathleen Early did a fantastic job with a large cast of characters. Each character had a distinctive voice and was able to deliver some rather colorful dialog quite convincingly. I thought that she did a great job in capturing the emotions of the characters. Rachel had a lot of really high points and some rock bottom moments in this book and I really felt her joy and her pain. I will definitely look for more audiobooks narrated by Kathleen Early. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a story set in a small town with quirky characters. There is a lot more to the story than that but the characters are really the basis of this story. I did enjoy Richard Fifield's debut novel and plan to check out his work in the future. I received an advance reader edition of this book from Blackstone Audio via Audiobook Jukebox for the purpose of providing an honest review.
It gave me all the feels
Amazing story with unforgettable characters! If you like the humor of David Sedaris, you will love this rough, funny, and ultimately heartwarming story.