Questions of identity and abandonment haunt the linked stories that make up Janet Holloway’s Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do. In writing at once intimate and sweeping, Holloway sketches the saga of a twentieth-century Appalachian family. At the book’s heart lie three generations of women, richly rendered in Holloway’s spot-on dialogue and closely observed detail. Billie, the matriarch, knows all the secrets and calls the shots, as she capably runs a string of businesses across several states.
A bold and unrepentant moonshiner, Billie runs whiskey to Chicago in the 1920s (for which she eventually serves jail time), keeps a farm going in Virginia, and owns the Pioneer Beer Garden in the heart of Hatfield country in West Virginia. Bess, her adopted daughter, an unstable beauty unsure of who she is, continually tries to escape her roles as wife and mother. And Janet, Bess’s child, helpless in the currents of her parents’ needs, tries to make sense of the lives around her. Both vulnerable and strong-minded, she finds her anchor in Billie’s “unrestrained yet tough love.”