Sidle Creek
Reading Recommendations

Sidle Creek

Sidle Creek, the debut story collection by Jolene McIlwain (Melville House), was released in May 2023.

“Set in the bruised, mined, and timbered hills of Appalachia in western Pennsylvania, Sidle Creek is a tender, truthful exploration of a small town and the people who live there, told by a brilliant new voice in fiction.”

From the author’s website.

I started reading this collection before it came out, because that’s the privilege of book reviewers, and the work blew me away. So much so that I felt a simple review would not do. I wanted to understand why her collection moved me and how she had accomplished this effect.

Sidle Creek is not an easy collection to read. The stories are intense, complex, and tightly packed narratives that confront us on nearly every page with blood and abuse.

Violence inundates us on the news, the streets, our screens—how should we attend to it in literature? How can authors illuminate humanity’s darker sides without leaving readers psychologically disturbed? 

From “Beyond Binary Thinking: Writing Cruelty Without Inflicting Harm

Jolene McIlwain writes about cruelty without glorifying it or using it gratuitously. Please check out my full review essay on CRAFT Literary to find out how she does it: “Beyond Binary Thinking: Writing Cruelty Without Inflicting Harm.”

And please read Sidle Creek to travel through her words to rural Pennsylvania. It’s an NPR favorite for 2023!

My recommendations for other short story collections: