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Over the Plain Houses (Hardcover)
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It's 1939, and the federal government has sent USDA agent Virginia Furman into the North Carolina mountains to instruct families on modernizing 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, these 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.