Mama's Shoes

General Fiction

By Rebecca Elswick

Publisher : Abbott Press

ABOUT Rebecca Elswick

Rebecca Elswick
I am a child of Appalachia. I live in the Southwest VA coal fields where I was born the daughter and granddaughter of coal miners. I am married to my high school sweetheart and we have 3 children and at last count, 4 dogs.
I teach Writing and Photojournalism. I am a teacher consultant More...


Mama’s Shoes explores the lives of Sylvia and Sassy Richardson. In 1942, Sylvia finds she is an eighteen year old World War II widow, raising a daughter on her own. Stuck in the coal mining town she vowed to leave behind, Sylvia raises her daughter amidst the ruins of her broken dreams. As Sassy grows into an intelligent, book-loving teen, she is troubled by her mother’s drinking, smoking, and excessive dating. Surrounded by the women in the beauty shop where Sylvia works, Sassy deals with her budding adolescence while coming to terms with her mother’s troubled past.

Spanning 20 years, Mama’s Shoes is a haunting saga of love, despair and forgiveness as a cadence of female voices weaves a spell of mountain lore and secrets, defines family as more than blood kin, and proves second chances can bring happiness.


Never Say Never Never say, “Don’t bother to enter those contests. No one ever wins.” Because I did and I have the book to prove it! The contest was sponsored by Writer’s Digest and Abbott Press and was called #Pitch2Win Writing and Publishing Contest. I discovered it on Twitter, and it sounded simple enough - in a single tweet of 140 characters or less, pitch your novel. I had just completed a novel called Mama’s Shoes, and had waded into the frustrating world of agents and publishers. And now, on the computer in front of me, was a contest that promised the winner a publishing contract with Abbott Press. I read the rules and decided I wanted to enter. There was only one problem, the contest ended at midnight, on Sunday, March 27, 2011 and it was just after 11:00 PM on March 26! I had less than an hour to come up with my pitch and the clock was ticking. I remember staring at the computer screen in front of me. How could I describe my novel in 140 characters? For the next half hour, I typed and erased; typed and erased. Just before midnight, I filled the space with a line from my novel, “Mama always said you can tell a real lady by the shoes she wears, but then nobody ever accused Mama of being a lady.” I clicked send. I knew I had found the perfect tweet to describe Mama’s Shoes. After all, it was that line that was runner-up in another contest, this one in Writer’s Digest Magazine. If you keep every issue of Writer’s Digest like I do, pull out the October 2003 issue. On page 14, you will find the winners of “Your Opening Line #8 Contest.” The object of the contest was simple; based on a tiny black and white picture of flip flops on a beach; write the opening line for a novel. It took me eight years, but that’s exactly what I did. That line, “Mama always said you can tell a real lady by the shoes she wears, but then nobody ever accused Mama of being a lady” became the foundation for Mama’s Shoes. And even though it’s not the opening line, it is in the first chapter. Page nine.

Publisher's Weekly
The tragic and troubled history of the Richardson family is the backbone of this WWII-era coming-of-age tale...Filled with a cast of eccentric bucolic characters and meticulously built scenes, this novel creates an intricate and beautiful landscape...this is a well-tuned and complex work. Review
This family saga told through the eyes of a young imaginative girl (Sassy), on the cusp of puberty, and her other female relatives. Sassy reminds me of the young heroine of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" in her ability to convey all the little details of her world, and make them as magical for the reader as they are for her.

Writer's Digest Rebecca D Elswick's debut novel, "Mama's Shoes," has been chosen to receive the prestigious "Mark of Quality
n. The "Mark of Quality" is reserved for books published through Abbott Press that come highly recommended for style and literary merit by the Writer's Digest editorial staff.

In Mama’s Shoes, immensely talented debut novelist Rebecca Elswick weaves an intriguing tale of buried secrets at times both haunting and humorous, with a cast of strong Southern women so real that I
could almost hear them speaking to me...
~ Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot

From its perfect first paragraph straight through to its hard-won resolution, Mama's Shoes is an absolutely wonderful novel ,its setting a beautifully realized  small Appalachian coal town, its characters so vivid they're practically jumping off the page, There's conflict aplenty here too--between mother and daughter, truth and lies, rich and poor, past and present----as thirteen year old Sassy tries to determine the truth of who she really is. Rebecca Elswick captures her readers by writing straight from the heart.  ~ Lee Smith, author of 12 novels, including On Agate Hill and Fair and Tender Ladies                                                                                                                                                          

Other Book(s) By Rebecca Elswick