New England, as a setting in literature, has a very long tradition, appearing in works by such disparate authors as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Jack Kerouac, and Stephen King. The region’s long, dramatic history and gorgeous scenery have long attracted writers of fiction—and many make the Northeast locales their titular focus. Here are three such works, all recommended by Kirkus Indie:
Linda Stewart Henley’s novel Waterbury Winter (2022) is set in a Connecticut town the author portrays as a “run-down but friendly” place, according to Kirkus’ reviewer. The story, which features small mysteries and digs into the town’s past, features a colorful local pub called O’Malley’s: “The regulars at this establishment, from a sympathetic bartender to a rambling college professor, ably explore different character archetypes and give the setting a sense of history,” our reviewer notes.
The 2020 short story collection Boston: My Blissful Winter by Alain Briottet, translated by Paulette Boudrot, offers a portrait of Massachusetts as seen through the eyes of a French visitor to Boston’s Faneuil Hall and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, among other sites. At one point, the narrator waxes poetic about upstate Lowell, the birthplace of Kerouac: “one of a small number of cities that have a mystery—a hidden sense about them that is not apparent right away.” Kirkus’ reviewer observes that Briottet “takes the familiar and, through his unjaded perspective, makes it seem exotic and remarkable.”
Purgatory Island, in Geraldine Burrows’ 2021 paranormal thriller, Vampire Island, Rhode Island, isn’t real, of course, but—like King’s fictional Castle Rock, Maine—it draws on New England’s distinctive flavor to tell a horror-tinged tale. In it, folklorist Leah Gerard investigates a local legend involving 19th-century vampires and becomes entangled in a murder investigation. Kirkus’ reviewer points out how the author “immers[es] readers in the island’s spooky ambiance” in this “gripping tale.”
David Rapp is the senior Indie editor.