As I self-quarantine in my 9,000-resident hometown, and while watching season two of Schitt’s Creek, I got to thinking about the power of the depiction of small towns in books. While one may dismiss the small town as boring or uneventful, its ability to build community and its possession of charm has the potential to give a book’s plot and characters extra dimension. A small town also has the unique ability to function as a character in its own right, as its influence over the storyline affords it the privilege of acting as more than just a setting. If you’re looking for books featuring small towns with big personalities, whether charming or riddled with corruption and murder, look no further than these seven titles.
6 Small Town Books with Big Personalities
Stephen King often places his stories in small towns (particularly in his home state of Maine), but UNDER THE DOME separates itself from the pack with the role the setting plays in the book. In UNDER THE DOME, the town of Chester’s Mill, Maine, is cut off from the rest of the world by a mysterious, impenetrable dome. Town residents must band together to figure out how this barrier came to be and how to make it go away, as well as contend with the town’s corrupt politician who will stop at nothing to maintain his power.
Don’t miss the “harrowing” (The Washington Post) #1 New York Times bestselling thriller from Master of Horror Stephen King that inspired the hit television series, following the apocalyptic scenario of a town cut off from the rest of the world.
On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when—or if—it will go away.
Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens—town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician’s assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing—even murder—to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn’t just short. It’s running out.
Lisa Taddeo’s immersive journalistic endeavor takes us to suburban Indiana, a quiet community in North Dakota, and an exclusive enclave in the Northeast to explore the sexual lives of three different women. THREE WOMEN provides insight into female sexuality in America, displaying the similarities in desire and patriarchal corruption, as well as the greater impact on the community, despite differences in location and circumstance.
The instant #1 New York Times bestseller and one of the most talked-about books of the year, Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women is “the most in-depth look at the female sex drive that’s been published in decades” (New York) and a “groundbreaking...breathtaking…staggeringly intimate” (Entertainment Weekly) look at the sex lives of three real American women—based on nearly a decade of reporting.
Hailed as “a dazzling achievement” (Los Angeles Times) and “riveting page-turner that explores desire, heartbreak, and infatuation in all its messy, complicated nuance” (The Washington Post), Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women has captivated readers, booksellers, and critics—and topped bestseller lists—worldwide.
Declared “the best book of the year” by Elizabeth Gilbert and “a breathtaking and important book” by Cheryl Strayed, Three Women has won praise everywhere from Columbia Journalism Review (“deeply reported, elegantly written, almost uncomfortably intimate”) to Refinery29 (“the hype for Three Women is real; in fact, it’s insufficient”), from Esquire (“a heartbreaking, gripping, astonishing masterpiece”) to Time (“Three Women is a battle cry…For anyone who thinks they know what women want, this book is an alarm, and its volume is turned all the way up.”) In the words of The New Statesman, “This is an unusual, startling, and gripping debut. It feels to me like the kind of bold, timely, once-in-a-generation book that every house should have a copy of, and probably will before too long.”
In suburban Indiana we meet Lina, the homemaker and mother of two whose marriage, after a decade, has lost its passion. Starved for affection, Lina battles daily panic attacks and, after reconnecting with an old flame through social media, embarks on an affair that quickly becomes all-consuming. In North Dakota we meet Maggie, the seventeen-year-old high school student who allegedly has a clandestine physical relationship with her handsome, married English teacher; the ensuing criminal trial will turn their quiet community upside down. Finally, in the northeast we meet Sloane, the successful, refined restaurant owner whose husband enjoys watching her have sex with other men and women.
Based on years of immersive reporting and told with astonishing frankness and immediacy, Three Women is both a feat of journalism and a triumph of storytelling, brimming with nuance and empathy. “A work of deep observation, long conversations, and a kind of journalistic alchemy” (Kate Tuttle, NPR), Three Women introduces us to three unforgettable women—and one remarkable writer—whose experiences remind us that we are not alone.
L. M. Montgomery’s timeless tale brings us to the fictional Canadian town of Avonlea, home of the farm at Green Gables. ANNE OF GREEN GABLES follows orphan girl Anne Shirley, who is mistakenly sent to Green Gables despite the Cuthbert siblings’ request for an orphan boy. However, Anne makes her mark on Avonlea, as her sweet yet fiery disposition impacts everyone she meets. While the book’s titular character gained a worldwide following, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES also put Canada and Prince Edward Island on the map as literary locations.
One of the most charming and enduring coming-of-age tales!
Best-selling Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery published the first book in her charming series in 1908, making it a literary favorite for more than a hundred years. Published as a children's novel, the story of Anne Shirley, an orphan, was inspired by the author's childhood adventures on rural Prince Edward Island. It follows Anne's journey as she moves to a farm on Prince Edward Island to live with a middle-aged brother and sister who had intended to adopt a boy to help them with farming chores. The story follows Anne as she makes a home and comes of age on the island.
* This chic and inexpensive edition comes with a heat-burnished cover, foil stamping, luxurious endpapers, and a smaller trim size that's easy to hold.
* The widely popular novel has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into more than twenty languages since its first publication.
Anne of Green Gables has been one of the world's most charming coming-of-age stories for more than a century.
About the Word Cloud Classics series:
Classic works of literature with a clean, modern aesthetic! Perfect for both old and new literature fans, the Word Cloud Classics series from Canterbury Classics provides a chic and inexpensive introduction to timeless tales. With a higher production value, including heat burnished covers and foil stamping, these eye-catching, easy-to-hold editions are the perfect gift for students and fans of literature everywhere.
Pulitzer Prize–winners OLIVE KITTERIDGE and its sequel OLIVE, AGAIN explore the relationships of the townsfolk of Crosby, a coastal town in Maine. Both books feature thirteen interconnected yet separate short stories, anchored by the presence of retired schoolteacher Olive Kitteridge. Although Olive’s strong presence has made OLIVE KITTERIDGE and OLIVE, AGAIN shine, equally notable is how Strout, a native Mainer, grounds the fictional town of Crosby in reality.
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.
SHARP OBJECTS takes a dark approach to the small-town homecoming trope. In Gillian Flynn’s debut novel, Chicago-based investigative journalist Camille Preaker attempts to advance her career while struggling with self-harm, a result of a traumatic childhood. After the murders of two preteen girls in her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, Camille must return there to report on the event. While there, she is forced to confront her estranged, neurotic mother, as well as a half-sister she barely knows.
The inspiration for the current hit series on Hulu, LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE depicts the increasingly enmeshed relationship between the Richardsons, a family of six that seems to epitomize the ideal suburban family, and the newcomers the Warrens, a single mom and her teenage daughter. Equally pivotal to the story is the setting, Shaker Heights, Ohio, and its community. In an NPR interview, Celeste Ng, herself a native of Shaker Heights, noted the importance of her hometown to the story, referring to its community as its own character in the book, filled with strengths and weaknesses.
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