Holding On To Nothing by Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne

Publisher:ย  Blair Publishing

Release Date: October 22, 2019

Genre:ย  Southern Fiction



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 tobacco fields, a bluegrass bar, 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 Wiley Cash, cast without sentiment or clichรฉ, but with a genuine and profound understanding of the place and its people.

Ok, I have given myself some time to Digest. Reflect. Process. Now let’s review my favorite book of 2019 shall we?
You know me, I have to preface this by saying. This review will not do this novel justice. I wish, I could invite everyone into my brain (scary thought I know) and my heart to feel the effects of this novel…since that is not possible, let’s try to do this thing justice. Grab your glass of Tennessee Whiskey put on your Dolly Parton and settle in friends.
“I am a man of constant sorrow
I’ve seen trouble all my day.
I bid farewell to old Kentucky
The place where I was born and raised.
(The place where he was born and raised)For six long years I’ve been in trouble
No pleasures here on earth I found
For in this world I’m bound to ramble
I have no friends to help me now.”The lyrics roll over you like the fog coming off the Tennessee mountains. It’s sorrowful and mournful. Holding on to Nothing evokes that image for me. A gritty love story if you will…but really a picture into the life of an ill-fated couple. Like the mountains, you watch the characters rise and fall. I became so engrossed in Lucy & Jeptha’s story, I would look up from reading and have to remind myself where I was. I was no longer in North Carolina. I was in this world that Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne brought to paper.
I’m not going to go into too much detail about the story itself. I want you to know, this story broke my heart. I literally held my little baby dog while I sobbed…for hours. Even now, I want to cry again. (you have been warned) Elizabeth has a way with words to be sure. The characters are sadly too real to these small southern towns. The cycler nature is so very heartbreaking. However, Elizabeth wrote in a way where I had hope. I wanted this story to end well. Along the way she introduces you to memorable characters that will make you laugh, make you cuss, make you reflect on all the “what ifs”. Pretty much like real life. The background of bluegrass music and smoky bars gives way to a very atmospheric read. Y’all know that is my jam.
Alright, at the end of the day. If you enjoy southern fiction. Buy this book. Request this book from the library. Pre-order it now….and it will be ready for you to read on October 22nd. I’m going to say something…this is one of the best debuts I have EVER read. Ever. Remember my love for Crawdad’s? This is better. Crawdad’s will reach a wider audience…but this story will live in my heart forever.
Elizabeth, thank you for sharing this book with me. I can’t wait to see what you put out next my friend. You are an auto buy author for me.

1 Comment

  1. Please be sure to remind us of this book on pub date. I couldnโ€™t get it from NetGalley, and my librarian looked at me like I was an alien when I asked if I could reserve a book that hadnโ€™t come out yet. Iโ€™m anxious to read this, but by the 22nd Iโ€™m afraid Iโ€™ll forget.


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