That age-old saying “Never forget where you came from” always seems to hold true in our hearts. Despite countless moves, expansive travels, and entirely immersive stories that whisk us away on otherworldly adventures, a soft spot remains for our hometown roots. Here are just a few titles our ed board loves to revisit. Each of these stories perfectly captures the setting and hometown essence of our birthplaces.
Luckily, my small-town Pennsylvania experience did not involve murder or missing women, and I loved the accessibility to nature trails and lakes and wide spaces for picnics. I'm a thriller fan at heart, and finding one set in my home state by an author I admire made this the ideal read. Departing Boston for rural PA, Leah decides the secluded landscape is the perfect place to start over—at least until her roommate disappears and she becomes a suspect. With untrustworthy characters and curious circumstances, you'll play a constant guessing game trying to determine the book's underlying threads.
A masterful follow-up to the New York Times bestseller All the Missing Girls—the gripping story of a journalist who sets out to find her missing friend, a woman who may never have existed at all. “Think: Luckiest Girl Alive, The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl” (TheSkimm).
When Leah Stevens’ career implodes, a chance meeting with her old friend Emmy Grey offers her the perfect opportunity to start over. Emmy, just out of a bad relationship, convinces Leah to come live with her in rural Pennsylvania, where there are teaching positions available and no one knows Leah’s past. Or Emmy’s.
Then there’s a wave of vicious crimes in the community and Emmy Grey disappears, and Leah realizes how very little she knows about her friend and roommate. Unable to find friends, family, a paper trail or a digital footprint, the police question whether Emmy Grey existed at all. And mark Leah as a prime suspect.
Fighting the doubts of the police and her own sanity, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name. Deep, dark, and irresistibly twisty, “Megan Miranda’s eerie suspense thriller…smartly examines the slippery theme of personal identity” (The New York Times Book Review).
Sarah Jane’s Hometown:
My hometown of Summit, New Jersey, is shared by author Susannah Cahalan, who spends time there during the harrowing medical ordeal detailed in her memoir. In a swift and breathtaking narrative, she tells the true story of her descent into madness, her family’s inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen.
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An award-winning memoir and instant New York Times bestseller that goes far beyond its riveting medical mystery, Brain on Fire is the powerful account of one woman’s struggle to recapture her identity.
When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she’d gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened?
In a swift and breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family’s inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen. “A fascinating look at the disease that...could have cost this vibrant, vital young woman her life” (People), Brain on Fire is an unforgettable exploration of memory and identity, faith and love, and a profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance that is destined to become a classic.
I came to America from Panama when I was two, and lived in Miami until I left for college in North Florida. Florida is wildly misunderstood, and my most favorite thing about it is the natural beauty found in the state’s beaches, swamps, forests, and natural springs. So I consider a book set in the singular Everglades a real treat. Swamplandia! is a quirky and beautifully written story told by thirteen-year-old Ava as she tries to save her family’s alligator wresting park from corporate control (that is a very Florida sentence). Full of magical realism, transporting imagery, and strange characters, this big-hearted novel is sure to charm you if you give it a chance—much like Florida itself.
This blazingly original debut novel takes us to the swamps of the Florida Everglades. Set against a backdrop of hauntingly fecund plant life, it is an utterly singular novel about one family’s struggle to stay afloat and one unforgettable young heroine on a harrowing odyssey.
Infuse a suburban Connecticut town with a murder mystery, and you have Jennifer Weiner’s Goodnight Nobody. Recently relocated from Manhattan, Kate Klein is struggling with her increasingly absent husband and measuring up to the standards set by Upchurch, Connecticut’s playground super-mommies. When fellow mother Kitty Cavanaugh is murdered, Kate begins an investigation during the hours when her children are in nursery school, despite the misgivings of the local police. As Kate uncovers more of Kitty’s past, she realizes she has more in common with her than she previously thought, and increasingly puts herself in greater danger. . . .
New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner’s unforgettable story of adjusting to suburbia—and all the surprises hidden behind its doors.
For Kate Klein, a semi-accidental mother of three, suburbia has been full of unpleasant surprises. Her once-loving husband is hardly ever home. The supermommies on the playground routinely snub her. Her days are spent carpooling and enduring endless games of Candy Land, and at night, most of her orgasms are of the do-it-yourself variety.
When a fellow mother is murdered, Kate finds that the unsolved mystery is the most exciting thing to happen in Upchurch, Connecticut, since her neighbors broke ground for a guesthouse and cracked their septic tank. Even though the local police chief warns her that crime-fighting's a job best left to the professionals, Kate launches an unofficial investigation -- from 8:45 to 11:30 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, when her kids are in nursery school.
As Kate is drawn deeper into the murdered woman's past, she begins to uncover the secrets and lies behind Upchurch's picket-fence facade -- and considers the choices and compromises all modern women make as they navigate between marriage and independence, small towns and big cities, being a mother and having a life of one's own.
Holly’s Hometown Pick #1:
I’m a sucker for a good woman’s mystery novel. And when it’s set in my beloved home state of New Jersey, then all the better! One for the Money stars bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. Out of work and desperately in need of some money, Stephanie blackmails her bail-bondsman cousin, Vinnie, into getting her a job as an apprehension agent. Her first assignment? Nailing the cop who took her virginity when she was just sixteen years old. There is still a sense of powerful chemistry between the two, so prepare for this chase to get interestingly dangerous.
Now available in a special 25th anniversary edition! Discover where it all began—#1 New York Times bestselling author Janet Evanovich’s first “snappily written, fast-paced, and witty” (USA TODAY) novel in the beloved Stephanie Plum series featuring a feisty and funny heroine who “comes roaring in like a blast of very fresh air” (The Washington Post).
Meet Stephanie Plum, a bounty hunter with attitude. In Stephanie’s opinion, toxic waste, rabid drivers, armed schizophrenics, and August heat, humidity, and hydrocarbons are all part of the great adventure of living in Jersey.
She’s a product of the “burg,” a blue-collar pocket of Trenton where houses are attached and narrow, cars are American, windows are clean, and (God forbid you should be late) dinner is served at six.
Out of work and out of money, Stephanie blackmails her bail-bondsman cousin Vinnie into giving her a try as an apprehension agent. Stephanie knows zilch about the job requirements, but she figures her new pal, el-primo bounty hunter Ranger, can teach her what it takes to catch a crook. Her first assignment: nail Joe Morelli, a former vice cop on the run from a charge of murder one. Morelli’s the inamorato who charmed Stephanie out of her virginity at age sixteen. There’s still powerful chemistry between them, so the chase should be interesting…and could also be extremely dangerous.
Holly’s Hometown Pick #2:
Although this story is skewed for a slightly younger audience, I had to include it on our list of hometown reads. This is the first book I remember reading that made me envision by hometown (specifically my hometown mall) within the pages. After sixteen-year-old Tessa falls victim to an accident in gym class, she awakens in what she believes to be heaven. Only this heaven is not filled with the plush clouds and bright lights she had imagined one would find there. In fact, it looks strikingly similar to her hometown mall. Tessa then begins to relive her life up until her accident, confronting things she’d rather forget and uncovering parts of herself she’d rather keep hidden. Through it all she discovers what makes life worth living.
You might have seen the movie, but if you haven’t read the book, you’re missing out. This incredible story follows Pat, a man who moves home with his family after spending some time in a mental health facility. While he is trying to win back his ex-wife, Nikki, he meets Tiffany, a depressed and beautiful widow who, in exchange for entering a dance competition with her, offers to speak to Nikki for him. This powerful and poignant novel is set in the charming town of Collingswood, a small municipality just fifteen minutes outside Philadelphia, which I am extremely acquainted with, having grown up a few streets away from Pat’s fictional home. With Pat’s expressed love for the Eagles and the author’s vibrant descriptions of the town’s main road and surrounding landmarks, reading this novel makes me feel right at home.
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