Talking Location With… author Lizzy Barber – TUSCANY
Ten Great Books set in the UNITED STATES
15th January 2022
The United States is the latest location for our ‘Ten Great Books set in…’ series. Ten great books set in the United States. The U.S. is a country of 50 states covering a vast swath of North America, with Alaska in the northwest and Hawaii extending the nation’s presence into the Pacific Ocean. Major Atlantic Coast cities are New York, a global finance and culture center, and capital Washington, DC. Midwestern metropolis Chicago is known for influential architecture and on the west coast, Los Angeles’ Hollywood is famed for filmmaking
‘You Can’t Make an Omelet Without Breaking a Few Eggs’ – U.S. proverb
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Betty Smith’s debut novel is universally regarded as a modern classic. The sprawling tale of an immigrant family in early 20th-century Brooklyn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of the great distinctively American novels.
The Nolan family are first-generation immigrants to the United States. Originating in Ireland and Austria, their life in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn is poor and deprived, but their sacrifices make it possible for their children to grow up in a land of boundless opportunity.
Francie Nolan is the eldest daughter of the family. Alert, imaginative and resourceful, her journey through the first years of a century of profound change is difficult – and transformative. But amid the poverty and suffering among the poor of Brooklyn, there is hope, and the prospect of a brighter future.
At First Light by Vanessa Lafaye
1993, Key West, Florida. When a Ku Klux Klan official is shot in broad daylight, all eyes turn to the person holding the gun: a 96-year-old Cuban woman who will say nothing except to admit her guilt.
1919. Mixed-race Alicia Cortez arrives in Key West exiled in disgrace from her family in Havana. At the same time, damaged war hero John Morales returns home on the last US troop ship from Europe. As love draws them closer in this time of racial segregation, people are watching, including Dwayne Campbell, poised on the brink of manhood and struggling to do what’s right. And then the Ku Klux Klan comes to town…
Inspired by real events, At First Light weaves together a decades-old grievance and the consequences of a promise made as the sun rose on a dark day in American history.
Betty by Tiffany McDaniel
Born in a bathtub in 1954 to a Cherokee father and white mother, Betty is the sixth of eight siblings. The world they inhabit is one of poverty and violence – both from outside the family and also, devastatingly, from within. When her family’s darkest secrets are brought to light, Betty has no choice but to reckon with the brutal history hiding in the hills, as well as the heart-wrenching cruelties and incredible characters she encounters in her rural town of Breathed, Ohio.
Despite the hardship she faces, Betty is resilient. Her curiosity about the natural world, her fierce love for her sisters and her father’s brilliant stories are kindling for the fire of her own imagination, and in the face of all she bears witness to, Betty discovers an escape: she begins to write.
A heartbreaking yet magical story, Betty is a punch-in-the-gut of a novel – full of the crushing cruelty of human nature and the redemptive power of words.
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
In the din and stink that is Cannery Row a colourful blend of misfits – gamblers, whores, drunks, bums and artists – survive side by side in a jumble of adventure and mischief. Lee Chong, the astute owner of the well-stocked grocery store, is also the proprietor of the Palace Flophouse that Mack and his troupe of good-natured ‘boys’ call home. Dora runs the Bear Flag Restaurant with clockwork efficiency and a generous heart, and Doc, secreted away in his home at Western Biological Laboratories, is the fount of all wisdom. Packed with invention and ramshackle joie de vivre, Cannery Row is Steinbeck’s high-spirited tribute to his native California.
Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb
Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong.
The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past. Not only is JT fighting a child exploitation racket operating out of one of Florida’s biggest theme parks, Winter Wonderland, a place where ‘bad things never happen’, but he’s also mixed up with the powerful Miami Mob. With two fearsome foes on their tails, just three days to get JT back to Florida, and her daughter to protect, Lori has her work cut out for her. When they’re ambushed at a gas station, the stakes go from high to stratospheric, and things become personal.
Breathtakingly fast-paced, both hard-boiled and heart-breaking, Deep Down Dead is a simply stunning debut.
Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman
Hawaii, 1944. The Pacific battles of World War II continue to threaten American soil, and on the home front, the bonds of friendship and the strength of love are tested.
Violet Iverson and her young daughter, Ella, are piecing their lives together one year after the disappearance of her husband. As rumors swirl and questions about his loyalties surface, Violet believes Ella knows something. But Ella is stubbornly silent. Something—or someone—has scared her. And with the island overrun by troops training for a secret mission, tension and suspicion between neighbors is rising.
Violet bands together with her close friends to get through the difficult days. To support themselves, they open a pie stand near the military base, offering the soldiers a little homemade comfort. Try as she might, Violet can’t ignore her attraction to the brash marine who comes to her aid when the women are accused of spying. Desperate to discover the truth behind what happened to her husband, while keeping her friends and daughter safe, Violet is torn by guilt, fear and longing as she faces losing everything. Again.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town – and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at an unexpected and devastating cost…
Someday Everything Will All Make Sense by Carol LaHine
Someday Everything Will All Make Sense follows Luther van der Loon, an eccentric harpsichordist and professor of early music, as he navigates the stages of grief after the untimely death of his mother. Luther obsesses over burial practices, rails against the funerary industry, and institutes a personal injury suit against the Chinese takeout whose “sloppy methods” he blames for his mother choking on a wonton. Luther detests modern music and the equal temperament, the tuning fiction upon which it is based. He believes, like Kepler and the greatest thinkers of the Renaissance, that music is to be constructed according to the divine Pythagorean ratios.
The Devil’s Advocate by Steve Cavanagh
A DEADLY PROSECUTOR
They call him the King of Death Row. Randal Korn has sent more men to their deaths than any district attorney in the history of the United States.
A TWISTED RITUALISTIC KILLING
When a young woman, Skylar Edwards, is found murdered in Buckstown, Alabama, a corrupt sheriff arrests the last person to see her alive, Andy Dubois. It doesn’t seem to matter to anyone that Andy is innocent.
A SMALL TOWN BOILING WITH RAGE
Everyone in Buckstown believes Andy is guilty. He has no hope of a fair trial. And the local defense attorney assigned to represent him has disappeared.
A FORMER CON-ARTIST
Hot shot New York lawyer Eddie Flynn travels south to fight fire with fire. He plans to destroy the prosecutors case, find the real killer and save Andy from the electric chair.
But the murders are just beginning.
Is Eddie Flynn next?
The Wind is not a River by Brian Payton
April 1943. In the bloody turmoil of war, John Easley, a journalist mourning his lost brother, is driven to expose a hidden and growing conflict: the Japanese invasion and occupation of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. But when his plane is shot down he must either surrender or struggle to survive in a harsh wilderness.
Three thousand miles to the south, Helen Easley cannot accept her husband’s disappearance-an absence that exposes her sheltered, untested life. Desperate to find and be reunited with him, she sets out on a remarkable journey from the safety of her Seattle home to the war in the north.
An evocative, richly atmospheric tale of life and death, commitment and sacrifice, The Wind Is Not a River, perfect for fans of Cold Mountain, is a gripping story of survival that illuminates the fragility of life and the fierce power of love.
It was incredibly hard to choose just ten books from the over 3,500 in our US database! We hope you like our selection, but if we have missed any of your favourites just add them in the Comments below.
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