The author, Ronda Browning White, explains, “The nine stories in The Lightness of Water and Other Stories feature strong characters such as West Virginia miners, Florida bikers, Tennessee granny women, and Virginia professors, who grapple with—and sometimes overcome—harsh issues that many of us face; loneliness, loss, grief, and guilt. I began work on this collection during my studies at the Converse College Low-Residency MFA Program. A native of the West Virginia coalfields, White is a wife and mother who works as a medical manager. “The Lightness of Water & Other Stories is like the best country music—a tough front covering a broken heart.” —Stewart O’Nan. “In her stunning debut, Rhonda Browning White tells stories on behalf of those who cannot, desperate men and women whose shattered and broken lives play out in the mountains between the Ohio and Shenandoah Rivers. Make room for her. These are dangerous stories. Urgent, needful and aching, they will not be denied.” —Robert Olmstead. “The finely drawn pieces in this moving and remarkable debut collection provide an authoritative view of the sources of heartbreak as well as the abiding strengths to be found within our Appalachian heartland. These stories focus on the rapacious disregard of mining companies for the natural landscape and the men and women who labor there, upon the devastating effects of the opioid and methamphetamine crisis, and also upon the enduring power of love in its many forms: romantic, familial, and that of inhabitants for their native land. To read it is to be informed and inspired.” —Les Standiford. “The Lightness of Water & Other Stories masterfully renders the lives of West Virginia characters displaced from the fragile land and culture of their deeply rooted ancestors. Fraught by the aftermath of coal mining and lumber companies, Rhonda Browning White’s characters grapple with poisoned land, cancer, joblessness, and infertility. Despite the explosive circumstances, these stories are nuanced and finely crafted, infused with humor and humanity. This is a thrilling and highly satisfying debut collection by a craftswoman already at the height of her powers.” —Susan Tekulve.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Press 53, 2019. 158 pages. Trade paperback.