Dead Woman Hollow

By Kass Fleisher

Subjects: Fiction
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438442624, 194 pages, June 2012

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Table of contents

Part I
Part II
Part III
A Note from the Author

Three generations of Northern Appalachian women confront poverty, violence, and isolation.


Dead Woman Hollow, a shady glade named for a rattlesnake-bit mother left to die in 1908, is a novel that testifies to the true grit that is a birthright of the women of Northern Appalachia's remote mountain areas—a beautiful and brutal land with a culture hostile to change.

The novel spans three generations of women's lives connected by geography and history. It begins during World War I, when a Philadelphian pro-suffrage group attempts to bring their replica Liberty Bell to every one of the sixty-seven county seats in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, drawing the interest of a young woman with a mysterious past. Then during the Depression, a headstrong girl finds the means to feed her sisters, her cousin, and her stepfather, even as the latter scours the region looking for work to stave off starvation. And in the waning years of the Reagan Era, two lesbian hikers are stalked by a local mountain man. Propelled by prose that is as stylistically stark as the events it depicts, this novel is testament to the enduring mettle of women who find themselves at the crosshairs of history and circumstance.

Kass Fleisher is Associate Professor of English at Illinois State University. She is the author of Talking Out of School: Memoir of an Educated Woman; The Adventurous; Accidental Species; and The Bear River Massacre and the Making of History, also published by SUNY Press.


"The book begins secretively, mysteriously, in the mountains of Pennsylvania. And like the lives of the characters it is about to describe, it is devoid of frills … what appear to be three separate tales are so closely related that it is no surprise to find the main character in each has the same name: Jenny. She is central to the entire story, a story divided into three segments of time in America's history: from when the women's suffrage movement was first taking hold, then through the Depression, and ending in the 1980s. The Jenny of each story is inquisitive and aware, and she is possessed of an inner strength that finds its way off the pages to grip the reader. " — ForeWord Reviews

"This scalpel-sharp novel cuts swiftly (and for the reader, breathlessly) through the thin layer of America's pretend-righteousness, to expose the bloody violence that fuels our consumption and still directs our lives. One epic century's lies are pulled off like an animal skin by this skilled hunter. Kass Fleisher's people live inside American violence longer than they live in their houses. Amazingly, they remain tender and true. Dead Woman Hollow takes its place alongside True Grit, My Antonia, and Deliverance, as a take-no-prisoners classic in the American grain. " — Andrei Codrescu, author of Whatever Gets You through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments