One-off Novels Set in Small Towns and Villages

This article Top 10 Novels Set in Villages by best-selling author Claire Fuller, is from The Guardian and is the inspiration for this post. Here are a few of my favorite small town or village books. They are not in any ranked order. I deliberately left out some of my beloveds though–series such as Jan Karon’s Mitford, or Miss Read’s Fairacre, or Three Pines in the Chief Inspector Gamache novels by Louise Penny or James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small in the Yorkshire villages, Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country Doctor in Ballybucklebo, Philip Gulley’s Harmony books, and Fredrik Backman’s Beartown are all excluded. Even Chocolat and dear old Payton Place are series!

I probably should have done a Part I and Part II, but decided a Part II should be nonfiction. What do you think?

My Choices

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler shows realistic small town life in today’s America. I could picture every scene, hear every voice perfectly. This is my world. The America of the Rustbelt and the formerly-farmed belt.


The Truth According to Us is is an historical fiction novel–set in the 1930’s in a small town in West Virginia. My review is here. I decided to put these two together to show how book marketing works–this is just such a good visual on the topic. Annie Barrows Wrote Truth on her own, but she co-wrote Guernsey. Guernsey set in a village on the Island of Guernsey,is now a beloved runaway hit with book clubs, so the marketing department reused the cover. Slick. Nevertheless, I loved both books. Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.


When the village is an island things get really interesting–especially when it is a real island with homes owned by Mick Jagger and, formerly owned by the late Princess Margaret. Murder on Mustique is a look at life where the people are either wealthy, white hedonists, or the poor natives who wait on them and provides services to them.  Regardless of socioeconomic status, race, or nationality, everyone is into everyone else’s business.


A small town on the North Carolina coast is home to “The Marsh Girl.” School teachers, social workers, grocery clerks–they all see her, they all go through the motions of officially caring and then leave her to raise herself. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Ove’s neighborhood is a village to me. Whether it is in a city or not, I cannot remember. But there is a village life going on in that neighborhood. Brit Marie Was Here ) takes a job in a rustbelt sort of town where she tries to help the kids stuck in that town. [Notice the marketing?]


Small town, small city–same thing. Everyone knows everyone’s business. Working at the nursing home, working at the town’s one remaining industry, farming–it’s all small town life. The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal.


The Shipping News portrays the type family you do not want in your village. Even more so if your village is on an island. There was so much bad in this place you couldn’t pay me to go there.

Both of these historical novels portray life in the hills and hollars of Appalachia. Christy is set a generation or so earlier in the Smokey Mountains of the part of Tennessee that gave us Dolly Parton. It gives a much stronger taste of local folk lore–a liver-sprung child, for example The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is set in East Kentucky during the Great Depression.


Edgecombe St. Mary is a Sussex village, complete with a snooty and culturally tone-deaf country club,  that is home to Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali–a favorite couple of mine. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: A Novel by Helen Simonson.


Great Depression & Dust Bowl-era Kansas is the setting for this tale of a women’s quilting club in small town Kansas. The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas.


A former Peace Corps volunteer goes back to the village he served many years ago.  What he finds is not good. From Peace Corps most famous alum, Paul Thereaux, Lower River a novel set in Southern Malawi.

This one IS ranked. It is my favorite!


While it is massive by today’s standards, it is worth the time! Multiple generations of the same families in the same town. I loved every word and have read it multiple times. “…and the Ladies of the Club” by Helen Hooven Santmyer.

8 thoughts on “One-off Novels Set in Small Towns and Villages

  1. I’ve read many of Thereaux’s travel books and a couple of his novels, but this one isn’t one I know. Funny thing – I read And the Ladies of the Club while breastfeeding my oldest son. He’s 36 years old now!


  2. I’ve read many of the books you mentioned above. However, I have not read And Ladies of the Club. So many have loved it that I must put it on my list of books to get. Thanks for a great blog!

    Liked by 1 person

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