I remember when I first ventured out of my state and into the big bad world for the first time.
I’d like to say I ran off and found adventure wherever I could, but for the most part, I just really, really missed the place that I called home.
Calls home were a no-go, they just made me even sadder. And nowhere else could truly imitate the magic of the South.
I was really at a loss for how to curb that constant longing for the place that I called home.
That was until I found a novel in my local library all about spending the summer in the South. Of course, I instantly picked it up, and so began my love affair with Southern-inspired literature.
It was my escape. I could open up those pages and get sucked straight into the South.
I could feel the wind through my hair from lazy long lake days, I could feel the raindrops of thunderstorms hit my face, I could taste the Butterfinger ice cream as it dripped down my finger, I could hear the twang in the voice that sang over a guitar.
So, if you’re looking to get your next Southern fix to tide you over until your next trip home, you need to check out the following books!
The Best 4 Southern Novels
On the eve before his execution in 1875, Persimmon ‘Percy’ Wilson decides to leave a recording of the truth. And not the truth everyone has decided for him, the real truth, his truth. Yes, he’s guilty but not of what he is accused of.
It’s 15 years prior, and Percy has been sold to Sweetmore, a Louisiana sugar plantation. A house slave by the name of Chloe joins him, and he can’t help but notice her striking beauty the moment he sees her.
The connection between them is obvious and it doesn’t take long before the couple conspires to escape their captivity and cruel Master Wilson who has already claimed the young house slave as his mistress.
But Master Wilson has other plans, he shoots Percy and steals Chloe along with his other slaves to Texas. And so begins the haunting tale of Persy’s journey across the frontier with only one goal; to reunite with his lost love.
- Multi-Dimensional Characters – The characters throughout this novel are masterfully crafted. There is an obvious development of these characters throughout their stories; each paints the harsh and atrocious reality of survival throughout slavery.
- Vivid Imagery – The descriptions and imagery throughout this novel are astonishing. The scene is set in your mind through a crystal-clear image. The rich descriptions will engage all of your senses to the point that you can taste what the characters taste, you can see what they see, and you can actually hear all the noises. It really brings the novel alive.
- Mature & Potentially Triggering Content – Peacock does not subdue or sugarcoat the awful transgressions of the time period. Because of this, there is quite a lot of mature content that won’t be appropriate for all readers. Violence is prevalent throughout the novel.
Caroline Murphy had always wanted to escape the small-town life of her hometown Peachtree Bluff. And so she steals away to New York City, a place that truly feels like home.
However, after a messy and embarrassing public split from her husband, Caroline sees no other way to protect herself, her unborn child, and her 9-year-old daughter from the gossip mongers than heading home. Back to her old home.
Ansley, Caroline’s mother, has always put her children’s will before her own, and of course, welcomes the family with open arms.
But once her other two daughters also make their way back to the South, Ansley starts to feel like she might be losing the small stake she made for herself.
With all that, plus a mysterious guest appearance from a stranger from her past life, Ansley realizes there are secrets she’s kept buried from her daughters that threaten to come to the surface.
- Bit Of Southern Comfort – This book is clearly written specifically for those that are acquainted well with Southern culture. The settings and plot are foundation blocks for the novel that any Southerener will easily identify. From imagery to characters, everything is so specifically intended to invoke feelings of nostalgia for the South.
- Emotional Rollercoaster – This book deals with some of the most relatable yet heartbreaking hardships of life. We are taken on a journey of how to overcome them which allows us to feel a variety of emotions. I really enjoy that Woodsen Harvey balances these difficult topics with such lightheartedness, wit, and truly funny moments too.
- Disappointing Ending – Some readers find that the ending is somewhat lackluster with too many questions still unanswered in its ultimate conclusion.
Ella May Wiggins makes the 2-mile trek to and from her night-shift job every week.
For her 72-hour weeks at this incredibly dirty and dangerous mill, she receives just a mere 9 dollars.
All out of options, with a no-good husband on the run, alas Ella has no other choice.
But when talk on union circulates, Ella finally sees a ray of hope. But the mill owners don’t plan on going down without a fight. In fact, they will do whatever it takes to prevent the workers from banding together and taking control – including bloodshed.
On the biggest rally so far, Ella must finally make a choice. But what she doesn’t realize is that this choice will have consequences that descend generations.
Skip forward 75 years, and Lily, Ella’s elderly daughter, tells the tale to her nephew about her courageous mother and the decisions she made, and the tragedy that befell her mother on that fateful union night.
- Historical Fiction – While this story may be a work of fiction, this sadly was the situation for many of the people living in the South and North Carolina during the early 1900s. It makes the story only more poignant and allows you to sympathize with the plot and characters so much more thoroughly.
- Filled With Substance – This is more than just an engaging story. There is so much substance and so many lessons to be learned. Throughout the novel topics such as misogyny, racism, violence, and injustice are prevalent.
- Changing POVs – The format in which past and present are interwoven can be a little confusing to follow at times. Sometimes distinguishing between characters and understanding their importance can be difficult. But I do believe that this does become easier as the novel progresses.
Asher Sharp’s life turns on its head when a terrible flood washes away most of the small town in which he resides in Tennessee. And things only seem to get worse when he offers shelter to two gay men.
In doing so, he begins to see life in another light and thus must risk everything; his wife bound to her religious prejudice, his congregation enraged by his sermon on tolerance, and his young son, Justin, who is ensnared in a nasty and bitter custody battle.
With no other options, Asher steals Justin and flees to Key West where he plans to meet up with his estranged brother, Luke, whom he’d abandoned after he came out.
It is here, in the southernmost part of the country, that the boys learn a new way of thinking and a new acceptance of love in all forms.
- Three Dimensional Characters – These well-developed characters really come alive as if you’ve known them for decades. They have their own set of flaws that make them real and relatable and each must learn to battle through the changes they set themselves along with the change thrust upon them.
- Heartfelt Message – This story has such an important underlying message at its core. It promotes acceptance and love and refusing to cower behind fear and prejudice just because it’s the easier option.
- Pacing – This book can feel a little slow at some points and it can make some chapters more difficult to read than others. With that being said, it is definitely worth the perseverance as the story definitely begins to pick up around a third of the way through.
If you’re looking for a fix of Southern Comfort to keep the homesickness at bay, then you definitely need yourself a dose of Southern Literature.
It’ll take you back to a familiar face of home that can invoke feelings unlike anything else.
And if you’re looking for a Southern novel that will have you engaged and gripped to your seat, then any of the aforementioned books are sure to be the right fit for you.
Filled with heart, emotion, and vivid imagery, they are sure to ensure some much-needed escapism into a world so real that you’ll actually believe you’re there.
Just be sure to keep the tissues beside you…you might need them.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Different Types Of Southern Literature?
There are a variety of different subgenres in Southern Literature, the most common are as follows; the plantation novel, the slave narrative, southwest humor, southern pastoral or ‘counter-pastoral, southern modernism, and the southern grotesque.
What Makes Southern Literature Unique?
While it’s true that all literature revolves around human relationships, Southern literature focuses on these themes inherently.
Most novels relate to the innate interest of specific families and their wider communities in ways that are universally relatable to people from the place or time period.
- 20 Must-Read Genre-Blending Literary Fiction Books - May 26, 2023
- 32 Gripping Epic Fantasy Books To Transport You To Another World - May 26, 2023
- 12 Books Like Red, White, And Royal Blue You Will Love - May 17, 2023