50 States, 50 Novels – Part 9

South DakotaThe Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1940)

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s much-celebrated Little House series started out entirely in the realm of children’s literature, but as the series progressed it gradually became darker and its focus began to drift more towards adult literature. The Long Winter is right on the cusp of this transition, and documents the family’s struggle through the winter of 1880-81 in De Smet, South Dakota.

TennesseeChild of God by Cormac McCarthy (1973)

Cormac McCarthy is well-known for the level of historical research that goes into his novels, such as Blood Meridian. This disturbing novel, set in the mountains of Tennessee, contains a plethora of historical detail, and the infamous protagonist is reportedly based on an unnamed historical figure.

TexasCaballero: A Historical Novel by Jovita González & Eve Raleigh (1996)

Published in 1996, some 50 years after it was written, Caballero is a quintessential Texan novel. Set in the 1840’s, it explores Mexican/American relations, and since its “rediscovery” it is now considered to be one of the cornerstones of Mexican-American literature.

UtahRiders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey (1912)

Unquestionably the most successful and influential Western novel of all-time, Zane Grey’s masterpiece is set in the remote deserts of Utah, and tells the story of Jane, a young woman trying to escape her fundamentalist Mormon church, and Lassiter, as classic Western anti-hero.

VermontThe Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992)

Although she is now best-known for her 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Goldfinch, Tartt’s first novel is just as rewarding. Set in a prestigious Vermont college, the novel is a fascinating inversion of the murder mystery genre, with the killer being revealed in the very first pages.

-Christian Kriticos