03/07/2013 10:14 AM
BATON ROUGE – Set in the pastoral horse country of Rapidan, Va., the stories in Cary
Holladay’s “Horse People,” now available from LSU Press, chronicle the lives of the
Fenton family through the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II. At the
center of these interconnected stories is Nelle, a northern debutante who marries
into the Fenton family and establishes herself as their stern and combative matriarch.
Nelle’s arrival in Virginia sets up the familial conflict: The Fentons, though well-respected
millers and horse-breeders, remain yeoman farmers, whereas Nelle grew up in a wealthy,
urban environment. Her high-brow sensibility creates animosity within her new family
and fosters resentment among the rural poor. Headstrong and contentious, Nelle relies
on an almost supernatural connection with horses to escape the hostility that surrounds
her. As Nelle ages and experiences the sweeping cultural changes and hardships of
early 20th-century America, she comes to symbolize everything she once challenged
in this community. Through these multi-generational stories, Holladay draws on the
folklore and history of her native Virginia and examines the cultural, racial, gender,
and economic tensions that pervaded the entire nation.
Holladay is the author of two novels and three story collections. Her writing has
appeared in New Stories from the South, The Oxford American, The Southern Review,
Glimmer Train and Tin House. She has received fellowships from the Tennessee Arts
Commission, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the NEA. She and her husband,
writer John Bensko, teach at the University of Memphis.
Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013