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Over the Plain Houses

Julia Franks

Hub City Press
$26.00 hardcover
6 x 9   
280 pages
May 1, 2016

It’s 1939, and the federal government has sent USDA agent Virginia Furman into the North Carolina mountains to instruct families how to modernize their homes and farms. There she meets farm wife Irenie Lambey, who is immediately drawn to the lady agent’s self-possession. Already, cracks are emerging in Irenie’s fragile marriage to Brodis, an ex-logger turned fundamentalist preacher: She has taken to night ramblings through the woods to escape her husband’s bed, storing strange keepsakes in a mountain cavern. To Brodis, there are all the signs that Irenie—tiptoeing through the dark in her billowing white nightshirt—is practicing black magic. 

When Irenie slips back into bed with a kind of supernatural stealth, Brodis senses that a certain evil has entered his life, linked to the lady agent, or perhaps to other, more sinister forces.

Working in the stylistic terrain of Amy Greene and Bonnie Jo Campbell, this mesmerizing debut by Julia Franks is the story of a woman intrigued by the possibility of change, escape, and reproductive choice—stalked by a Bible-haunted man who fears his government and stakes his integrity upon an older way of life. As Brodis chases his demons, he brings about a final act of violence that shakes the entire valley. In this spellbinding Southern story, Franks bares the myths and mysteries that modernity can’t quite dispel.


“The best historical fiction conjures the past while speaking to the present. Over the Plain Houses is an absorbing, twisty, suspenseful story of a couple’s rupturing marriage in a time and place wracked by change. It is also a timely cautionary tale about the dangers of a mind hardened by fear and zealotry. Precisely observed, exquisitely written, Julia Franks’ debut novel is a work of stunning emotional depth and clarity that is destined to become a Southern classic.” —Kim Church, author of Byrd.
 “Over the Plain Houses had me enthralled from beginning to end. This beautifully written, carefully constructed, and richly detailed novel swept me away to another time and place -- rural Appalachia during the Great Depression.  Ms. Franks coveys a vibrant, here-and-now authenticity to this setting, but, much more than that, she plunged me into an absorbing human drama.of marital discontent, misunderstanding, violence, and desperation.  What a spellbinding, convincing, and completely satisfying novel this is!" —Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried.
“As Southern Appalachian women, we need to tell our own stories, and Julia Franks does this in prose as starkly beautiful as the Depression-era mountain landscape her characters inhabit. Over the Plain Houses is an accomplished debut, and Julia Franks is a gifted new writer to watch.” —Amy Greene