How Savagely They Loved

Samantha Jo Atkins, Purdue University


My original goal with this collection was to invite the reader into the post-industrial, rural America in which I grew up. I wanted to emphasize landscape so that it might convey the dilapidated beauty of this world in particular. I hoped to create a space that was both familiar and strange, both welcoming and suffocating, as it was for me during my childhood. However, the stories and characters resisted my pigeonholing, and as a result, the majority of the thesis is not set in the agrarian small town I thought it would be. Instead, it follows characters that carry this landscape with them.^ Many stories in this collection shadow a protagonist as he or she lives away from a tightknit community and searches for belonging in an urban setting. Others engage with those who stay put, exploring how they grapple with the unique blend of financial poverty and communal richness of their towns. Regardless of place, though, each protagonist is at a pivotal moment in his or her life, poised on the brink of discovery. In this way, the stories read like coming of age tales.^ These stories are thematically linked as well, obsessing on, among other things, religious conservatism, sexual taboo, physical violence, and family trauma. These themes place this collection alongside the work of rural noirists such as William Gay, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and Frank Bill. However, not every story in How Savagely They Loved is driven by drugs, danger, and crime. Some explore the quieter struggles of the contemporary rural – relying on natural resources, handling illness in close families, and keeping the bills paid.^




Sharon Solwitz, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Creative writing|American literature|British & Irish literature

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