Main street of a small town

Librarian’s Choice – Small Town Fiction

By Lisa Navidi, Davis Library

Small town fiction has always appealed to me, maybe because I grew up in several small towns. I especially enjoy the characters and the way they interact with each other…or not. They say all politics is local. And whoever has lived in a small town knows that for sure. Experience small town life with these recommended reads.

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger—Virgil is lucky. He survived a deadly accident with only a slight brain trauma and gets a second chance at life. What will he do with his new life? But it isn’t only Virgil who gets a second chance. Greenstone, his northern Minnesota community that has been slowly dying for 20 years gets another life, at least that’s what this quirky band of locals are striving for. Rune, a kite flying visitor from Sweden discovers that he has a son from Greenstone who had vanished in a plane years before. Nadine, the wife of the lost flier and her son the skateboarder have an unspecified relationship with Virgil. There is also Adam Leer, the very strange rich man who lives at the top of the hill. What kind of power does he have over the town? These characters and many many more make up the fraying fabric of Greenstone. Part character study, part magic, Enger has crafted a beautiful novel.

The Operator by Gretchen Berg— The year is 1952 and Vivian, a telephone operator, wife of Edward, mother of Charlotte, sister of Vera and Violet, lives in Wooster, Ohio. Vivian, who has always felt that she “knows people” has a habit of listening in on conversations that she shouldn’t. And being a telephone operator is the perfect job for her. Her life is okay, really it is…until she listens in on a conversation that changes her marriage and ultimately her life.  Yes this is a book about small town gossip, how it affects people’s lives and how, if you learn from it, you can change your life for the better. In the afterword, we learn that this debut novel was based on the author’s grandmother, which certainly gives the book an interesting flavor. 

And if you like TV series set in a small town, you must watch Schitt’$ Creek currently in its 5th season on Netflix. MCPL owns the first two seasons. The premise is that the very rich Rose family, after being bankrupted by their financial manager, is forced to move to Schitt’s Creek a rural community that they once bought as a joke. Former video magnate, Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy), his wife, Moira (Catherine O’Hara) a former soap opera star, and their two very spoiled grown up children son, David (Daniel Levy) and daughter Alexia (Annie Murphy) are all hysterical. Each characters trys to fit into a town they would never have even looked at twice before their fall. But as time goes on, they change, as they must, realizing that there are other lives worth living. Make sure you watch more than the first two episodes. I promise you, you will be drawn to this town and the crazy Rose family as well.

If small town fiction appeals to you, try the following authors

Elizabeth Strout

Richard Russo

Fannie Flagg

Kent Haruf

Fredrik Backman