Set in Miami over the course of three decades, Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel follows the courtship and marriage of Frances Ellerby and Dennis DuVal. Throughout the story of their marriage, the author relates major historical events in the area during this time period and recounts the impact it had on their lives.
The story opens in 1969 in Miami, Florida, with Frances attending a friend's wedding; while there, she meets a woman named Marse Heiger, and they develop a quick friendship. Marse invites Frances to spend some time away with friends. They boat out to houses that are just off of Biscayne Bay, built up on cement stilts above the water; it is a small community called Stiltsville. The house they stay at is owned by Dennis DuVal, on whom Marse has a crush. During the course of the weekend, however, Frances and Dennis hit it off, and it is the start of a relationship that eventually leads to their marriage. Frances is a native from Atlanta, so the relationship is long distance for quite some time. However when Frances comes to Miami for a long visit and Dennis proposes, she never returns to Atlanta. Instead she stays in Miami and gets a job there. Their courtship and marriage all occur within the space of a year.
Dennis is a lawyer who is unhappy with his job, but sticks at in order to support his family. He and Frances have a baby girl, whom they name Margo. She is the only child that they have, and they dote on her and are highly involved in her life. She is a bright girl whose teacher suggests that she skip fifth grade and move right into sixth grade. It is a tough decision for the family. They know that she is intellectually capable of the move, but worry about her emotional maturity and how she will handle being around the older and more mature girls. They decide to do it, and although Margo struggles for a while, she eventually makes new friends and adapts well.
While Margo is in grade school, an incident where Miami police officers chase down and kill a black insurance agent named Arthur McDuffie creates riots and is the topic of news and discussion for months. Francis and Dennis treat Margo with maturity and relate what happened in candid terms. When the police are acquitted later on, there are riots in the streets, and entire neighborhoods are shut down. Fortunately, Dennis and Frances live outside of the dangerous area, but their lives are impacted nonetheless as they worry about the safety of their daughter. They even discuss leaving Miami for good, but they eventually decide to stay.
Margo eventually attends college at the...
(The entire section is 1052 words.)
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