Beth Gilstrap’s second story collection, Deadheading, won the 2019 Red Hen Press Women’s Prose Award and publishes tomorrow. It includes stories Leesa Cross-Smith characterizes as “little gardens—the words blooming, the rain too.” While reading, I kept coming back to this blurb. These stories are deeply rooted in the lives of working-class women in the Carolinas, and they are powered by collisions of beauty and decay, joy and struggle. As characters grapple with the choices they’ve made, or failed to make, they engage with the physical world by sinking their hands into rich, fertile soil or sucking salt or sweetness from their fingers. This is a collection you can taste: chicken thighs and hot dogs, pancakes and okra. These characters have hands that work, that are scented by flowers, dough, and earth. These stories are, indeed, in full bloom—cultivated and wild, most often intertwined.