From the Stacks
By Carol Ann Robb, PPL Reference Librarian

Every fall my father would quote colorful parts of two Helen Hunt Jackson poems: “The goldenrod is yellow…” (which I equate with seasonal allergies) and “…October’s bright blue weather.” And they do describe some of autumn’s finest qualities—the changing color palette of the season that draws people outside: raking up leaves in large piles for children and dogs to jump in, hearing the crunch of acorns underfoot as you walk along leaf-covered streets, the many festivals and parades held every weekend. If ever a season screamed “small town living,” it’s fall.

Yes, many people long for the bright lights of a big city but others much prefer the coziness of a small burg—no lengthy commutes, no long lines in the store, being called by name when you walk into the local library. And that may explain the popularity of books set in small towns. Granted, they often romanticize them but sometimes that’s exactly what we want while sipping our hot cider on the deck (but rest assured there are also some mighty scary books set in those same type of locales if that’s more to your taste).

For those wanting a taste of rural living, there are many fictional places you can visit: Virgin River (Robyn Carr), Elmwood Springs and Whistle Stop (Fannie Flagg), Lumby (Gail Fraser), Harmony (Philip Gulley), Mitford (Jan Karon), and Haven Point (Raeanne Thayne). If you prefer hopping overseas, then try Fairacre or Thrush Green (Miss Read), Ballybucklebo (Patrick Taylor), or Tavistock and other Devon/Cornish locales (Marcia Willett).

Many mysteries are set in small towns, which seems counterintuitive: wouldn’t the residents notice all the nefarious behavior? Nevertheless, they make the perfect setting for cozy mysteries. Think St Mary Mead (Agatha Christie), Lake Eden (Joanne Fluke), Sea Harbor (Sally Goldenbaum), Broward’s Rock (Carolyn Hart), Aleford (Katherine Hall Page), and Three Pines (Louise Penny) to name just a few.

Of course, not every book about a small town paints a cheery, happy picture—“In Cold Blood” comes to mind—but usually you can expect a warm, feel-good story. And there’s not a darn thing wrong with that. Scary Halloween tales can wait another week.

(Photo credit: Kiel James Patrick)