This month we're taking a road trip across the heartland of the United States, where we have just launched 10 new Silent Book Club chapters. Our literary travels take us through Ohio, Michigan, Kansas, Iowa, and Arizona—with a quick jaunt to New York City. (Just pretend we hopped on Bill Paley's private jet for that one.) In each of these novels, the setting plays a central role in the narrative, and even becomes a character of its own. Come along for the ride!
Curated by Silent Book Club founder Guinevere de la Mare
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
"Lydia is dead." With this revelation in the opening line of Celeste Ng's incredible debut novel, a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio must reckon with the loss of their beloved sixteen-year-old daughter. As the story unfolds from the point of view of each character, we discover that a tangled web of secrets, hopes, fears and truths can knit a family together—and tear it apart.
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides
In a quiet Michigan suburb outside of Detroit, five teenage sisters commit suicide, one by one, over the course of a year. Can you even imagine? Neither can the neighborhood boys, who collectively narrate the book from the distance of adulthood. Some twenty years later, these men are still haunted by the deaths and grapple with their inability to comprehend what drove these beautiful, enigmatic girls to kill themselves.
The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin
Okay, we're kind of cheating with this one. But wait for it. This delicious novel imagines what it was like to be part of Truman Capote's circle in New York City during the 1960s. The story follows Capote's rise to fame with the publication of his masterpiece, In Cold Blood, still one of the most famous books ever to be set in Kansas. (See what we did there?) It's a complex portrait of an often caricatured author and the socialites he enchanted—and and was enchanted by—during the dying days of Manhattan society.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set in Iowa is structured as a series of letters that John Ames, and elderly pastor, is writing to his seven-year-old son. Ames has a heart condition and knows that time with his young wife and son is limited, so he tries to impart as much wisdom, spiritual guidance, family history, and thoughts on life as he can during his remaining days. (Read this with a box of tissues handy.)
Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
In Barbara Kingsolver's writing, place is a character unto itself. In Animal Dreams, a woman returns to her hometown, a tiny canyon village in Arizona, to care for her ailing father. Weaving together flashbacks, dreams, and Native American legends from the Southwest, Kingsolver masterfully explores the interconnectedness of love, family, and our ties to the land.
*This post originally appeared in the Read it Forward newsletter.