Beginning with Cannonballs



" . . . both timely and timeless in today's fraught social climate." --Necessary Fiction

"This lyric novel is a gorgeous mosaic." --John Dufresne

The award-winning author of True Stories at the Smoky View is back with another novel about an unusual friendship. In the 1940s, in segregated Knoxville, Tennessee, Gail (white) and Hanna (black) shared a crib in Gail's parents' house, where Hanna's mother, Sophie, was the live-in maid. When the girls were four, Sophie taught them to swim, and soon they were gleefully doing cannonballs off the diving board, playing a game they'd invented based on their favorite Billie Holiday song.

By the time they're both in college, however, the two friends have lost touch with each other. A reunion in Washington, DC, sought by Gail but resented by Hanna, sets the tone for their relationship from then on. Marriage, children, and a tragic death further strain the increasingly fragile bond. How much longer can the friendship last?

Product Details

$16.95  $15.59
She Writes Press
Publish Date
May 26, 2020
5.5 X 0.8 X 8.4 inches | 0.65 pounds
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Jill McCroskey Coupe's first job was gathering (collating) in her father's printing plant in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. A former librarian at Johns Hopkins University, she has an MFA in Fiction from Warren Wilson College, located in the heart of the Blue Ridge. The Southern Appalachians will always feel like home to her, but so does Baltimore, where she has lived for more than thirty years.


"Written in clear, direct prose and told in brief chapters, this novel is episodic but cohesive. . . . a hopeful account of a friendship across time."
--4-star Foreword Clarion Review

"Coupe employs short sentences that pack a punch . . . in the tradition of Southern writers like Flannery O'Connor and Harper Lee . . . She lays bare each character's truths, allowing the reader to piece them together. . . The novel is a testament to the importance of connection and empathy, and feels both timely and timeless in today's fraught social climate."
--Necessary Fiction

"This lyric novel is a gorgeous mosaic, fragmented in a way that lets the reader into the gaps in order to complete the meaning, to connect the narrative dots. Beginning with Cannonballs reminds me of an Alice Munro story, one that looks at people's lives over decades, like catching them in snapshots, so we can see how they relate to the people they once were. Jill McCroskey Coupe is one savvy, irresistible, and fearless writer."
--John Dufresne, author of I Don't Like Where This Is Going

"Beginning with Cannonballs spans fifty years in a poignant yet difficult friendship. Through each episode, each explosive cannonball, the novel takes an unstinting and courageous look at how societal forces can seek to destroy the truth that lies beneath the surface of our skin: that we are all sisters and brothers at heart."
--J.E. Irvin, author of The Dark End of the Rainbow and The Strange Disappearance of Rose Stone

"Jill McCroskey Coupe's compelling story of an unlikely friendship in the segregated South is unforgettable. Hanna and Gail's struggle to defy the odds of racism and social status is truly one of hope. Such lovely and deft writing from a masterful storyteller. A must-read."
--Kim Bradley, short story writer and assistant professor of English at Flagler College

"As little girls doing cannonballs off a diving board, Hanna and Gail produce big splashes. A number of minor characters, just by showing up, do the same. The ripple effects make this powerful and perceptive novel an engrossing read."
--Joan Zelinka, former medical social worker at Johns Hopkins Health System

" . . . two intelligent women working through the barriers of white privilege, racism, and their own demons to see through the eyes of their oldest friend."
--Historical Novels Review

"Coupe's direct, accessible sentences combine with her depiction of complex relationships and the inevitable tragedies of life to make this a highly readable story."
--Story Circle Book Reviews