13 Charming Books Set In Small Towns That Range From Friendly To Terrifying
Not all small towns are alike. Some are charming and full of friendly faces, while others are eerie and too isolated for comfort. The books on this list run the gamut, so whether you're interested in a murder mystery, a coming-of-age tale, or a story about characters struggling with grief, there's sure to be something here that piques your interest. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.
13 Charming Books Set In Small Towns That Range From Friendly To Terrifying
10 Extremely Small Towns in America
(Populations as of 2010 US Census)
- Fenwick, Connecticut - Population: 43
- Brewster, Florida - Population: 3
- Elkhorn, Montana - Population: 18
- Funkley, Minnesota - Population: 5
- Lotsee, Oklahoma - Population: 2
- McMullen, Alabama - Population: 10
- Magnet Cove, Arkansas - Population: 5
- Tate City, Georgia - Population: 16
- Warm River, Idaho - Population: 3
- Hobart Bay, Alaska - Population: 1
Country vs City: Who's Happier?
A favored setting for all kinds of genres, small towns can evoke feelings ranging from comfort to terror. These communities can be welcoming and full of neighborly love, or they can be frightening, as they are usually remote locations with nowhere to hide when things go wrong. In no particular order, here are thirteen books that take place in quaint, charming villages and creepy, isolated towns.
In the #1 spot is "Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale" by Lynda Rutledge. Word spreads fast in tight-knit communities, so when the richest woman in Bass, Texas decides to sell all of her belongings, everyone shows up. Faith Bass Darling suffers from Alzheimer's and is convinced this will be her last day alive. She has no memory of why she cared about all the antiques and heirlooms in her house and sees no reason to keep them. While neighbors rifle through her valuables, her daughter and a few well-meaning townspeople try to convince her to reconsider selling.
#2 is "The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee" by Talya Tate Boerner. Ten-year-old Gracie Lee's life is far from exciting. Looking for adventure and a way to escape her troubles, she finds refuge in a vacant house. She spends most of her days there, reading the books that seem to fill every room. She also writes letters, about herself and everything she knows about the events of the town, as a way to cope with her loneliness. In the letters she shares all of her secrets with the owner of the house, thinking no one will ever read them.
In the letters she shares all of her secrets with the owner of the house, thinking no one will ever read them.
Next, at #3, is "Goodbye, Paris" by Anstey Harris. Once a celebrated cellist, Grace has stopped playing music publicly and needs a fresh start. With help from her lover, David, she opens an instrument repair shop in a small English village. David has promised to leave his marriage to be with her, but when he becomes a local hero, his newfound fame brings a change of heart. Deeply depressed, Grace is comforted by her young shop clerk and her most loyal customer, who are her two closest friends. In the process of healing from her past, she finds a renewed passion for music.
#4 on the list is "The Awful Mess" by Sandra Hutchison. After her divorce, Mary Bellamy moves to New Hampshire to escape her abusive ex-husband. But the quiet life she was looking for is hard to find, as she gets entangled in a love triangle with a married priest and a local cop. Questioning her recent choices and searching for the right path for her new life, she faces numerous obstacles on her way to happiness.
At #5 is Pam Stucky's "A Conventional Murder." A library in Washington plays host to a writers convention and becomes the scene of a real-life murder mystery when someone is found dead. Library director and forensics buff Megan Montaigne throws herself eagerly into the investigation, helping Deputy Max Coleman find the killer and restore peace. When a second body is found, tension and fear increase as the murderer remains on the loose. Megan and Max must race against the clock to solve the crime and prevent any more death.
Megan and Max must race against the clock to solve the crime and prevent any more death.
#6 on the list is "Unclaimed Baggage" by Jen Doll. Three teenagers working summer jobs in a store that sells lost and unclaimed luggage find themselves forming unlikely bonds with one another. Despite their extremely different backgrounds, Grant, Nell, and Doris become close friends. The fun of rummaging through other people's things, coupled with the cathartic process of sharing stories of their pasts, allows their friendship to grow quickly. Their community in the deep south presents difficult challenges, including racism, alcoholism, and sexual assault, but their relationships with each other remain strong throughout.
In the #7 spot is "More Things in Heaven and Earth" by Jeff High. As a new doctor, Luke Bradford jumps at the chance to be the sole practitioner for a town in Tennessee. But what he thought would be a simple job for his start in medicine turns out to be anything but. Earning the trust of the locals, who are wary of newcomers, proves to be a difficult task, and his patients present ailments as unique and varied as their personalities. When a flu outbreak hits, Luke must quickly prove he is up to the task of being the area's primary care provider.
Next, at #8, is "An Irish Country Doctor" by Patrick Taylor. A small doctor's office in Ireland needs a medical assistant for their aging resident doctor, and Barry Laverty accepts the job in the hopes of someday taking over the practice. But his personality clashes with the elder Dr. O'Reilly, and Barry has second thoughts about his decision to be the man's apprentice. Learning the ropes of running a medical practice is a difficult task, especially while dealing with the brash personality of his mentor. But Barry is won over by the beauty of pastoral Ireland and the eccentric but kind-hearted townspeople.
But his personality clashes with the elder Dr. O'Reilly, and Barry has second thoughts about his decision to be the man's apprentice.
#9 is Kathryn Ormsbee's "The Great Unknowable End." After her mother's suicide, Stella becomes the caregiver of her little sister and is forced to abandon her dreams of escaping their tiny, boring home. But she will soon realize that excitement can occur anywhere, regardless of population. When red rain falls from the sky and she finds snakes without eyes, rumors spread about a nearby cult village and the people who live there. Experiencing the eerie events brings Stella closer to her friends and family, and teaches her that even when she yearns for more, she can value what she already has.
At #10 on the list is "The Art of Raising Hell" by Thomas Lopinski. Reeling from the pain of his mother's death and struggling to fit in after moving to a new place, Ryan is in desperate need of good friends. He joins a group of boys and, with little to do in their isolated area, they find ways to entertain themselves. Led by an older boy named Lonny, they play practical jokes, go streaking, and cause trouble. These hijinks bring the boys closer together, and Ryan realizes the importance of friendship when coping with loss. But when Lonny's fun-loving antics go too far, it is Ryan alone who must step in to help.
#11 is "Evil for Evil" by Aline Templeton. Detective Inspector Marjory Fleming is called to a private island off the coast of Scotland in order to investigate a mysterious scene. A skeleton has been found, and although the bones appear very old, other clues indicate that this is a recent murder. During the investigation, additional crimes seemingly point to the owner of the island, Matt Lovatt. Marjory has her suspicions that Matt is being framed, but with each new clue that's uncovered, the case changes.
Marjory has her suspicions that Matt is being framed, but with each new clue that's uncovered, the case changes.
At #12 on the list is "Dry Bones in the Valley" by Tom Bouman. The spring thaw in the Appalachians has uncovered a mutilated body, and Officer Henry Farrell suspects the crime is drug-related. But with endless fights over property lines and the new presence of fracking companies, there is no shortage of motives or suspects. A second murder seems to relate to the first, but Henry's investigation is complicated by his connection to the newest victim. Uncovering secrets about someone he thought he knew is a distraction, and, having limited resources in his isolated town, he must focus all of his energy on solving this string of murders.
In the #13 spot is "The Mighty Queens of Freeville" by Amy Dickinson. Amy has lived in cities all over the world, but her hometown of Freeville, New York has always held a special place in her heart. After her divorce, she struggles to navigate the world as a single parent. The expanse of the world's metropolises, which she once found exciting, now makes her feel unsure and lonely, so Amy and her daughter stay with family in Freeville for a dose of familiarity and comfort. The strength she's been searching for is found through the guidance of her family's matriarchs and she feels rejuvenated by her visit home. Amy embraces her life with the confidence to start anew.