9 Literary Characters Keeping Us Company While We’re Social Distancing

April 1 2020
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Despite the recent events unfolding across the globe, we bookworms continue to find solace between the pages of a good read and in the arms of our fictional friends. Not only do good characters bring smiles to our faces and fill our minds with hope, but they can also help soothe our need for connection and community. So, while we’re cooped up at home, withheld from our typical social activities, these are the literary characters keeping us company.  

Pretend I'm Dead
by Jen Beagin

Mona: During dark days, it’s best to turn to a funny friend, and Mona is the perfect character for when you need a good, infectious laugh. Cleaning houses and handing out drug needles to get by, Mona falls for a man she refers to as Mr. Disgusting – who eventually breaks her heart. In an attempt to rebuild her life, Mona ventures off to New Mexico and finds herself amongst a community of fellow misfits. Her wild, strange, and hilarious personality is truly one of a kind. 

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Pretend I'm Dead
Jen Beagin

NAMED A BEST BOOK of the YEAR by O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE, REFINERY 29, and KIRKUS REVIEWS
SHORTLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE

A “wondrous,” (O, The Oprah Magazine) “scathingly funny” (Entertainment Weekly) debut from Whiting Award winner Jen Beagin about a cleaning lady named Mona and her quest for self-acceptance and belonging after her relationship with a loveable junkie goes awry.

Jen Beagin’s funny, moving, fearless debut novel introduces an unforgettable character, Mona—almost twenty-four, emotionally adrift, and cleaning houses to get by. Handing out clean needles to drug addicts, she falls for a recipient she calls Mr. Disgusting, who proceeds to break her heart in unimaginable ways.

Seeking a kind of healing, she decamps to Taos, New Mexico, for a fresh start, where she finds a community of seekers and cast-offs, all of whom have one or two things to teach her—the pajama-wearing, blissed-out New Agers, the slightly creepy client with peculiar tastes in controlled substances, the psychic who might really be psychic. But always lurking just beneath the surface are her memories of growing up in a chaotic, destructive family from which she’s trying to disentangle herself, and the larger legacy of the past she left behind.

The story of Mona’s quest for self-acceptance in this working class American world is at once hilarious and wonderfully strange, true to life and boldly human, and introduces a stunning, one-of-a-kind new voice in American fiction.

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Britt-Marie Was Here
by Fredrik Backman

Britt-Marie: At first glance, Britt-Marie is socially awkward and uptight. But lurking beneath it all is an imaginative woman with big dreams and an even bigger heart. After walking out on her cheating husband, Britt-Marie begins to rebuild her life in her small, quaint community. As she grapples with her obsessive mental struggles and her tendency to isolate, Britt-Marie ultimately realizes the importance of community. Throughout this story, you’ll find yourself rooting for this likable curmudgeon, as she navigates her new empowering life.  

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Britt-Marie Was Here
Fredrik Backman

Backman’s latest, BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE, is an irresistible novel about finding love and second chances in the most unlikely of places. We are packing our bags to move to Sweden.

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MENTIONED IN:

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Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell

Park Sheridan: The best kind of friend is the one who accepts you for who you really are. Park, in ELEANOR AND PARK, is that friend. Park is used to hiding in the shadows and keeping to himself. Despite Eleanor’s off-beat appearance and personality, Park is drawn to her, and her presence in his life leads to a new wave of confidence. With a friend like Park to compliment you, you’ll instantly feel accepted. You’ll fall for Park just as quickly as Eleanor, because sometimes all you need in life is someone who brings out your true colors.   

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Eleanor & Park
Rainbow Rowell

If your favorite character is Mike Wheeler

This young adult novel is also set in the 1980s and deals with first love between two outsiders. Except in Rainbow Rowell’s book, the kids are older and the monster isn’t a tulip-headed child-eater but an abusive stepfather.

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Mr. Flood's Last Resort
by Jess Kidd

Maud Drennan: If you need a loyal friend, look no further than Maud Drennan. Maud is a dedicated caregiver with an upbeat and happy outward appearance. Despite tragic events from her childhood, she continues to live a life of comfortable solitude.  But when Mr. Flood enters the picture, Maud’s entire life is turned around. Mr. Flood is the lone occupant of an old gothic mansion, and Maud is his last hope of maintaining a normal life with a caregiver before his son sends him off to a home. Maud’s loyal nature steps up for the challenge, and the unlikely pair soon form a bond. Complete with dark humor and delightful enchantment, MRS. FLOOD’S LAST RESORT shows what it truly means to have a loyal companion.   

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Mr. Flood's Last Resort
Jess Kidd

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Mornings with Rosemary
by Libby Page

Rosemary Peterson: Rosemary Peterson is the perfect friend talk for hours with. And with this newfound time on our hands, her stories are just the company we’re looking for. Between all the recent changes taking place in her hometown of Brixton, London, Rosemary is left reminiscing about how times used to be. A local reporter, Kate Matthews, is assigned to cover the closing of Rosemary’s beloved community pool, where she swims daily. As Kate writes a lovely profile of Rosemary, the two form an unexpected, yet nourishing friendship. Pick up a copy of MORNINGS WTH ROSEMARY and feel completely immersed in the friendship between these two women. 

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Mornings with Rosemary
Libby Page

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Dumplin'
by Julie Murphy

Willowdean:  Willowdean is fearless, funny, and the positive best friend we all need. As a self-proclaimed “fat-girl,” Willowdean is all about self-love and body positivity. She is the uplifting friend to get us through our darkest days. That is, until a boy comes along. When she becomes smitten with hot, former jock, Bo, Willowdean immediately begins to doubt herself. In an attempt to win back her confidence, Willowdean enters into the Miss Clover City beauty pageant. As her story unfolds, Willowdean proves to the world that she deserves to feel beautiful and loved, just as much as any other girl does. 

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Dumplin'
Julie Murphy

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The Lost Queen
by Signe Pike

Languoreth:  Sometimes the best friend is the one who will push us out of our comfort zone and into a great adventure. Set in ancient Scotland, THE LOST QUEEN follows a powerful woman, who we would love to call our literary friend, Languoreth. Languoreth ruled during a time of enormous disruption, when the burgeoning forces of Christianity threatened to obliterate the ancient pagan beliefs. As a war ensues, Languoreth and her twin brother are backed by the hero, Emrys Pendragon, and handsome warrior, Maelgwn. This story is complete with love, passion, and perseverance as Languoreth fights to preserve her kingdom.   

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The Lost Queen
Signe Pike

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Dear Mrs. Bird
by AJ Pearce

Emmy:  Emmy is unflappable, kind, and plucky with a capital P. She is the compassionate friend who cheers you on and gives you advice, good or bad, in earnest and with the best intentions. During the Blitz, she applies for a job with a newspaper, hoping it will help her become a War Correspondent. It turns out to be a post helping Mrs. Bird, the advice columnist, answer letters — but Mrs. Bird refuses to answer letters about “unpleasantness,” which accounts for most letters that come through. So what does Emmy do? She begins to reply as Mrs. Bird, of course! Her relationship with her best friend Bunty also demonstrates why she’d be an excellent friend: she Cares, deeply, and will support others in whatever way she can during their darkest days.

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Dear Mrs. Bird
AJ Pearce

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The Gunners
by Rebecca Kauffman

Mikey Callahan:  Mikey is a genuinely good character than any one of us would be lucky to call a friend. The story begins with Mikey reconnecting to his childhood mates, “The Gunners,” after one has tragically committed suicide. Before her death, Sally distanced herself from her former playmates, harboring long-held secrets. Realizing he must confront these secrets himself before the darkness gets the best of him, Mikey and his remaining friends being their search for the truth. Through it all they grow closer than ever and learn the true, root meaning of friendship.  

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The Gunners
Rebecca Kauffman

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Photo Credit: iStock/jacoblund

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