Spotlight on “That Pinson Girl” by Gerry Wilson

by LitStack Editor

That Pinson Girl unfolds in lyrical, unflinching prose, engaging the timeless issues of racism, sexism, and poverty.

That Pinson Girl

About That Pinson Girl

In a bleak Mississippi farmhouse in 1918, Leona Pinson gives birth to an illegitimate son whose father she refuses to name, but who will, she is convinced, return from the war to rescue her from a hardscrabble life with a distant mother, a dangerous brother, and a dwarf aunt. When, instead, her lover returns with a wife in tow, her dreams are shattered. As her brother’s violence escalates and her aunt flees, Leona must rely on the help of Luther Biggs, the son of Leona’s grandfather and one of his former slaves, to protect her child. 

Told against the backdrop of the deprivation of World War I, the tragedies of the influenza epidemic, and the burden of generations of betrayal, That Pinson Girl unfolds in lyrical, unflinching prose, engaging the timeless issues of racism, sexism, and poverty.


Excerpt from That Pinson Girl

Clouds were gathering, but for the present, the autumn sun cast golden light over the empty fields, the dried cornstalks, the cotton mostly stubble except for a few strands here and there. Along the roadside, a yellow carpet of coreopsis, and the trees—reds of every shade, pink to garnet to purple, fiery oranges and yellows—and beyond the fields, the hills clothed in a dazzling patchwork of color. Leona’s mind strayed beyond those hills. Out in the world, all that living and dying, and somewhere, far away in France, either on the march or in a trench with shells falling all around, was Walker. She felt ashamed to think of him, but she couldn’t help it.

(C) 2024 Regal House Publishing
Reprinted with permission
Not to be duplicated

Praise for That Pinson Girl

That Pinson Girl is a beautiful novel about the destructive power of dark secrets. Gerry Wilson’s prose shines as she breathes life into her characters and into the north Mississippi landscape. Leona Pinson, the young woman at the heart of this tale, is exactly the sort of heroine I long for in great fiction. I will not soon forget her. This book is a gift.”—Tiffany Quay Tyson, award-winning author of The Past is Never and Three Rivers

“I did not know Gerry Wilson’s work before, but I loved That Pinson Girl. The book is both gripping and beautifully written, and the characters and setting quickly sprang to life. Though Wilson has her own voice, the novel calls to mind the work of one of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Spencer.”—Steve Yarbrough, author of Stay Gone Days, The Unmade World

“In Gerry Wilson’s gripping debut novel, 1918 in North Mississippi becomes tangible again; here are the red hills, the suck of winter mud, the scrabble of subsistence living, and the intricately crossed lines of race and kin. Wilson’s suspenseful threading of tales has lasting historical resonance. In confronting the tragedy of a broken family, she explores the weight of motherhood, the rich and betraying Southern landscape, and the body’s intimate vulnerabilities. This story took me by the collar and shook me.”—Katy Simpson Smith, author of The Everlasting, Free Men, The Story of Land and Sea, and We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South. 1750-1835

“Devastating and beautifully written, Gerry Wilson’s That Pinson Girl is at once a heart-rending tragedy and a testament to the indomitable human spirit. In her heroine, Leona, Wilson has drawn an unforgettable character buoyed by her determination to survive and to care for her child, even when confronted with violence, racial tensions, the horrors of a distant war, mounting losses from the influenza epidemic, and the lingering repercussions of murder. This historical tale about a hard-scrabble Southern farming family grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go.”—Clifford Garstang, author of Oliver’s Travels and The Shaman of Turtle Valley

“…That Pinson Girl….A spellbinding story of murder, grief, and guilt with deeply sympathetic characters and a plot that takes you by the collar and won’t let go. This is red-clay Faulkner country: the Klan rides, rivers overflow, crops fail—and yet its traumatized women and Black inhabitants find ways to salvage what’s been lost and build new lives out of the rubble. Leona Pinson and Luther Biggs are two of the most memorable characters I’ve met in a long time. I want a sequel!”—Minrose Gwin, author of The Accidentals, Promise, and The Queen of Palmyra

“In a richly textured and fearless first novel, Gerry Wilson creates a world that is lyrical at times and always unflinching. That Pinson Girl portrays the tension of biracial friendships and loyalties in the rural South, a reality that has rarely been depicted with such precision. A remarkable debut.”—Gale Massey, author of The Girl from Blind River

“Sixteen-year-old Leona Pinson grows up fast in this powerfully evocative story of resilience, triumph, and renewal. It’s 1918. Every day, there’s some scrap of news about the war in Europe, but where is Isaiah’s father? And who murdered Leona’s father out there in the woods? Transporting us to a rural American South not long past, Gerry Wilson delivers a timely debut novel, proving the importance of guiding principles, internal morals, and maintaining your own spirit light.”—Margaret McMullan, author of Where the Angels Lived

“There are scintillating glints that sparkle on every page of this novel. They are bright insights into the human condition which are expressed in the clear, uncluttered prose of Gerry Wilson’s intrinsic art and craft of storytelling. Reading the conclusion of That Pinson Girl makes one want to begin again to delve even more profoundly into what informs and motivates the spirits of the characters who inhabit these pages.”—Nina Romano, author of The Secret Language of Women and The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley


About Gerry Wilson, Author of That Pinson Girl

That Pinson Girl

A seventh-generation Mississippian and a child of the hill country she writes about in That Pinson Girl, Gerry Wilson came of age during the turbulent civil rights era. Her story collection, Cross-currents and Other Stories, was nominated for the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Fiction Award. Gerry is a recipient of a Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Arts Fellowship. Her stories have appeared in numerous journals. That Pinson Girl is her first novel.

You can find and follow Gerry Wilson on her website, and on X (formerly Twitter).

Titles by Gerry Wilson


Other LitStack Resources

Be sure and check out other LitStack Spotlights that shine a light on books we think you should read.

As a Bookshop, BAM, Barnes & Noble,, Amazon, and Envato affiliate, LitStack may earn a commission at no cost to you when you purchase products through our affiliate links.

Related Posts