Reading The Suite Spot reminded me how much I like stories about small towns. I’ve never lived in one myself, and I’ve always imagined I’d find them claustrophobic (I prefer anonymity and being left to myself). But for whatever reason, I love stories about people who move to very small towns and find a community there. I love the sense of connectedness in a small town that seems so hard to create anywhere else.
Today’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is to list books with a favorite theme, so here are some of my favorite books set in small towns or remote areas. I looked for books where the town was more than just a setting, but is really a plot driver and functions almost like a character.
As I was looking at some of my favorites, a few authors rose to the top who tend to go back to small or remote towns again and again: Richard Russo, Elizabeth Strout, Kent Haruf, Jane Harper. If you like small town reads, these authors’ books are all good.
I don’t really do cute and heartwarming, so you’ll see this a darker list than you might expect – although there’s certainly a lot of emotion in these books. I didn’t include classics, though many are set in small towns (like most of the works of Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen) and I also didn’t include memoirs such as Hillbilly Elegy or Educated.
Here’s my list:
- Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout: A Pulitzer-prize winner, this is the first of several books set in Crosby, Maine about a retired shopkeeper who struggles to relate to her neighbors.
- Plainsong by Kent Haruf: Set in Holt, Colorado, this is a beautiful book about a pregnant teen who is taken in by two elderly brothers.
- Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: Set in Edgecombe St. Mary, a village in the English countryside, this is a story about a retired major who forms a friendship with a Pakistani shopkeeper.
- The Lost Man by Jane Harper: this mystery is set in a remote part of the Australian Outback, where being outside without water will kill you. Two brothers try to figure out how that happened to their middle brother, an experienced outdoorsman.
- Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo: One of my favorite books and movies, Russo writes about a crusty old guy, Sully, who’s trying to keep his son on a better path than the one he took.
- Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver: one of my earliest reads by Kingsolver and a favorite, it’s about a young woman who returns to her hometown of Grace, Arizona to confront her family and her past.
- Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman: this is a set of interconnected stories that take place over time in one house, set on the outer reaches of Cape Cod.
- Crow Lake by Mary Lawson: one of my all-time favorites, this is a book about an estranged brother and sister who grow up in rural Northern Ontario.
- Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger: Set in 1961 in New Bremen, Minnesota, it’s a coming of age story about two brothers who have to deal with a murder in their small town, and what that means for his family.
- Beach Read by Emily Henry: I wanted to highlight at least one romance, and Henry tells a great story but also avoids a lot of the cliches of the small town romance. Augustus and January are writers who live next to each other in a small beach town. They challenge each other to write in the other’s genre. Another romance I enjoyed was Well Met by Jen DeLuca, about a woman who’s staying with her sister in Willow Creek, Maryland and ends up volunteering in the local Renaissance Faire.
Those are some of my favorite small town novels. Do you have any favorites to share?