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Rocks That Float

Kathy B. Steele

John F. Blair, Publisher
$22.95 hardcover
6 x 9
282 pages
Published in 2005

When geologist Jimmy Steverson buys a tiny mill house on Dillehay Pond, his real-estate agent is disgusted, his father says he’s reliving summer camp, and his coworkers think it’s a weekend fishing cabin. Jimmy likes walking out his back door to his own dock and bass boat, but out his front door lies Randleman Road. The nine houses left on the block are the remnants of a nineteenth-century Carolina mill village, and the people living in them are remnants, too. An arrest leaves one house vacant, and its unlikely new owner is Karen, a college professor. As Karen rebuilds her house and her life, she anchors Jimmy to the block.

But the world he’s moved into has its own rules, its own language. Across the pond, Totch runs a barbecue place, which is legally a gift shop because he can’t get a restaurant license; buying a postcard translates to ordering a beer. Next door to Jimmy lives Mayme Boulineaux, who has no health-department permit to sell her popular breakfast breads, known locally and phonetically as bolenos, so they’re sold in shoeboxes for cash that never enters a register. The county sheriff drops by Jimmy’s to explain his mission of protecting people—including marijuana-smoking geologists—from the law.

Just as Jimmy becomes comfortable in the web of neighbor helping neighbor, he’s asked to breach his own personal code. He waits to see what rules Karen lives by.

Randleman Road is a forgotten block of unforgettable people, their lives linked like beads on a string. Jimmy’s story is the string.


  • Winner of the 2006 IPPY Award for General Fiction


“Once you’ve met the canny residents who live on Randleman Road, you’ll never be able to leave them behind. Kathy B. Steele is a modern-day Erskine Caldwell, capturing the deep wisdom, the raw pain, the sly nuances, and the earthy joy of the mill people and the lives they touch.” —Louise Shivers, author of Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail
“By page ten, you feel as if you live in the cluster of ex-mill houses along Dillehay Pond and are part of the lives of its intriguingly quirky inhabitants—surviving, making up life as they go along, and finding a bit of grace in their interconnectedness. Kathy Steele is a superb storyteller, and the story she has brought to life in Rocks That Float is absolutely compelling. If you don’t love this book, I’ll eat your hat and mine, too.” —Robert Inman, author of Captain Saturday and Dairy Queen Days
“Kathy Steele has written a book populated with some of the most memorable characters I’ve encountered in a long time. The people and stories of Randleman Road in Rocks That Float will stay with you long, long after you finish the final, beautifully written sentence.” —Cassandra King, author of The Same Sweet Girls