Share 6 Novels That Perfectly Capture New England

6 Novels That Perfectly Capture New England

Lisa Duffy is the author of THIS IS HOME and THE SALT HOUSELisa received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts. Her short fiction was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her writing can be found in numerous publications, including Writer’s Digest. She is the founding editor of ROAR, a literary journal supporting women in the arts. The Salt House was named by Real Simple as a Best Book of the Month upon its June release, as well as one of Bustle’s Best Debut Novels by Women in 2017, a She Reads Book Club selection and Refinery 29’s Best Beach Reads of 2017. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and three children and currently leads a fiction workshop through 24PearlStreet, the online component of The Fine Art Work Center in Provincetown.

As a native New Englander, I’m drawn home to my roots in my own writing. My debut novel, THE SALT HOUSE, is set in a fictional fishing village reminiscent of the many towns lining the jagged coast of the northeastern region. My sophomore novel, THIS IS HOME, explores life in a working-class town north of Boston similar to the town where I was raised. From stunning beaches and urban cities to rolling hills and mountain peaks, this slice of the country is rich in history, culture, and identity. Likewise, so is the literature set in these six states. Here are six novels that perfectly capture the essence of New England and bring this region to life on the page.


Olive Kitteridge
by Elizabeth Strout

Halfway through this Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, I googled Crosby, Maine, because it had to be real. Of course, it isn’t—Strout only makes everything in this novel ring so true that you’ll want to visit this coastal Maine town and find a way to befriend the terse and unforgettable narrator, Olive Kitteridge. Told in thirteen powerful narratives, this gem of a book is one you’ll read and reread, again and again.

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Olive Kitteridge
Elizabeth Strout

At times stern, at other times patient, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge is one of literature’s most complex characters in recent years. This Pulitzer Prize–winning novel offers profound insights into the human condition—its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

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The Stars Are Fire
by Anita Shreve

Based on the true story of Maine’s largest wildfire, this novel will take your breath away as Shreve expertly raises the stakes one word at a time. What begins as an exploration of an unhappy marriage turns and twists into a captivating tale of survival, betrayal and one woman’s extraordinary strength in the face of devastating loss. THE STARS ARE FIRE will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

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The Stars Are Fire
Anita Shreve

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The Good House
by Ann Leary

Set in the fictional town of Wendover, Massachusetts, on Boston’s North Shore, THE GOOD HOUSE perfectly depicts life in a small New England community. Layered with unforgettable characters, this story enchants with flawed and loveable Hildy Goode, a real estate broker who continues to drink after a staged intervention lands her in rehab. Darkly comical and poignant, this novel captivates from beginning to end.

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The Good House
Ann Leary

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MENTIONED IN:

6 Novels That Perfectly Capture New England

By Lisa Duffy | June 11, 2019

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Maine
by J. Courtney Sullivan

A beachfront property won in a barroom bet is the backdrop for this engaging family drama. The story traces three generations of the Kelleher family as they return to the Maine cottage for one final summer, each of them with their own share of resentments and heartache. Told in different perspectives and tackling issues of alcoholism, faith, and motherhood, this multigenerational story is a thoughtful meditation on family and identity.

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Maine
J. Courtney Sullivan

For the Kellehers, Maine is a place where showers are taken outdoors and old Irish songs are sung around a piano. As three generations of Kelleher women descend on their beachfront property, each brings her own hopes and fears. By turns wickedly funny and achingly sad, Maine unveils the sibling rivalry, social climbing, and Catholic guilt at the center of one family, along with the abiding, often irrational love that keeps them coming back, every summer, to Maine and to each other.

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Good Harbor
by Anita Diamant

Cape Ann holds the beaches of my childhood, so I had high expectations for a novel that promised to transport me to the historic seaside town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, where the flat, wide sands of Good Harbor beach hold many a memory. Diamant does not disappoint in this tale of friendship, motherhood, and loss. A slow-burning novel about the power of friendship, second chances and survival.

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Good Harbor
Anita Diamant

Anita Diamant, whose rich portrayal of the biblical world of women illuminated her acclaimed international bestseller The Red Tent, now crafts a moving novel of contemporary female friendship.

Good Harbor is the long stretch of Cape Ann beach where two women friends walk and talk, sharing their personal histories and learning life's lessons from each other. Kathleen Levine, a longtime resident of Gloucester, Massachusetts, is maternal and steady, a devoted children's librarian, a convert to Judaism, and mother to two grown sons. When her serene life is thrown into turmoil by a diagnosis of breast cancer at fifty-nine, painful past secrets emerge and she desperately needs a friend. Forty-two-year-old Joyce Tabachnik is a sharp-witted freelance writer who is also at a fragile point in her life. She's come to Gloucester to follow her literary aspirations, but realizes that her husband and young daughter are becoming increasingly distant. Together, Kathleen and Joyce forge a once-in-a-lifetime bond and help each other to confront scars left by old emotional wounds.

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MENTIONED IN:

6 Novels That Perfectly Capture New England

By Lisa Duffy | June 11, 2019

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I Know This Much Is True
by Wally Lamb

Set in upstate Connecticut, this hefty novel may scare potential readers away with its length—more than 900 pages. But Lamb weaves this tale so expertly, you’ll want to dive in all over again when it’s over. Narrated by Dominic Birdsey, a middle-aged housepainter with a paranoid schizophrenic twin brother, this exquisite novel is a stunning exploration of one man’s journey to overcome his monstrous past.

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I Know This Much Is True
Wally Lamb

Dominick and Thomas are identical in every respect except one: Thomas suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. After Thomas cuts off his own hand in what he believes to be an act of sacrificial protest, Dominick must review his own status as the “normal” twin and confront the dark and suppressed truths of his own life in this tale of alienation, connection, and, above all, the power of familial bonds.

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