A young maid an an upscale resort hides her banjo-playing freighthopper brother.
An unlikely romance bridges a quarter-century age gap and a 150-year-old murder.
A man tries to turn his sheltered mother’s backyard shed into a pricey vacation rental.
A gig worker must shake off her darker identity to become a professional baby namer.
An extraordinary debut from one of America’s most exciting new talents, The Ballad of Cherrystoke weaves together the quirky and the sublime: an important new voice in Appalachian literature. Each story is something lyrical and unflinching, with characters that remain with you long after you’ve finished.
Read Elizabeth Ford’s article on LitHub.
Melanie McGee Bianchi writes with graciousness for the reader: it feels like she’s invited you on her porch to tell you these stories because you need to hear them. She also shows graciousness for her characters, allowing them the full spectrum of humanity no matter what space they occupy in the world.
– Steven Dunn, author of Potted Meat
Yuri in “Abdiel’s Revenge” says: ‘If there’s a main idea in all those ballads, in all of Appalachia, to my mind, it comes down to this: bones in the river.’ The Ballad of Cherrystoke is a collection about Appalachian people (not characters, not stereotypes) with secrets and trust issues, brain injuries, prison records, sh**ty jobs, broken hearts, urges and needs and fears – but Bianchi is observant and wise, kind but unflinching, an archaeologist; she listens, and excavates, and through rich and luxuriously meandering prose pulls those bones up onto the bank for us to touch, and taste, and feel. This is the best debut collection I’ve read in years. Melanie McGee Bianchi is sharp, and tender, and brilliant.
– Meagan Lucas, author of the award-winning novel Songbirds and Stray Dogs and Editor-in-Chief of Reckon Review
The narrators in this collection shrug off their wounds to observe and report their fascinating stories. With language as striking and surprising as it is beautiful, Bianchi adds a new and unique voice to Appalachian literature.
– Heather Newton, author of McMullen Circle
Brilliantly weaving together original narratives with elements of the real Appalachian mountains and their people, these stories reveal startling details that create immediate, visceral impressions of complex, haunting characters: their secrets, their fears, and their anguish… Like the mountains they inhabit, these characters are a mercurial parade of stunning beauty and terrible pain.
– Elizabeth Baird Hardy, author of Milton, Spenser, and the Chronicles of Narnia: Literary Sources for the C.S. Lewis Novels
The complex, the quirky, and the sublime are interwoven with humor, love, and above all, grace, in contributing to a tradition of powerful storytelling. The landscape is steeped in the voices of the people.
– Tony Robles, author of Cool Don’t Live Here No More – A Letter to San Francisco and Fingerprints of a Hunger Strike
Bianchi has created worlds that seem simultaneously magical and rooted in the grit of rural reality – a vexing combination that dares the reader at every turn. Her rich characters grow within us in uncomfortable and compelling ways that force the next page turn.
– Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, author of Even As We Breathe
The characters in Melanie McGee Bianchi’s debut collection, The Ballad of Cherrystoke – gritty, determined, shrewd – are modern balladeers, narrating remarkable stories set in the Appalachian South. Beautifully unusual, told in penetrating, straightforward prose, these stories reveal genuine, universal truths, affecting and unforgettable.
– Susan Beckham Zurenda, award-winning author of Bells for Eli
Through deep lyricism and a sharp eye for detail, Melanie McGee Bianchi’s stories peel back the quotidian moments of everyday life to demonstrate the complexity of what it means to live in a world crafted by both our desires and our choices – and what it means when those two elements don’t always coincide. The Ballad of Cherrystoke is a powerful collection that uncovers the music of humanity that emerges each time a person interacts with another person in a complicated and changing world. It’s an extraordinary and haunting debut.
– Adam Clay, director, Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi; author of To Make Room for the Sea, Stranger, and A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World; editor of Mississippi Review, co-editor of Typo Magazine, and contributing editor for Kenyon Review
So many of the finest American short stories have been rooted in an almost palpable sense of region and Bianchi’s debut collection carries that great tradition into rural and small-town Appalachia. She lets her stories loose on the reader with a heady mix of bleak humour, unflinching observation and tough-minded pathos. Like the ballads she sometimes invokes, there are no pat endings or easy, elegant epiphanies here, just a bold, restless relish for all the strangeness, pity and mystery of human behaviour. Her characters’ lives are often as ramshackle as the crowded digs they share, but stubbornly resilient and full-voiced. Bianchi is a talent to watch, and the voices of her characters, spilling off the page, demand to be listened to.
– Wayne Price, author of Furnace and Mercy Seat