I don’t travel a whole lot (much less than I would like), but when I do, I love to have a book with me that’s set in the place I am visiting. When I was in London several years ago, I was reading David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. The feel of stepping into a place that has been set in a famous book and has been there for over a hundred years is surreal. More often, though, my reading happens when I’m not traveling, but firmly set at home. That’s why I love a book that describes a place so well, I can imagine being there. There are some places I am dying to go see because I’ve read books about them. In the past few months, I’ve read a couple of books set on two coasts that are now calling my name.
The first coastal call came from The Violets of March by Sarah Jio. Set on Bainbridge Island in Washington’s Pugent Sound, it’s one of those books that sucks you right into the setting. I enjoyed how Jio described the area so vividly without going on and on about it. She has the rare gift of weaving the setting into the plot seamlessly. How many times have you read a book and gotten sick of all the descriptions? I wouldn’t worry about that if you’re thinking of reading this book. The plot started out a little shaky: a 30-something woman dealing with a washed up marriage is living in New York but is forced to go back to her roots. Sweet Home Alabama, anyone? Thankfully, the plot is much more exciting than the kind of book that deals only with past emotions. Yes, there’s some emotional baggage the main character, Emily, is working through, but there’s also a mystery to unravel. And I love a well written mystery. I’m of the opinion they’re pretty rare. Sometimes the tone reminds me of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, though it’s not quite so dark. I’d recommend The Violets of March to just about anyone.
The next coastal book I read brought me back home to the East Coast. Moon Over Edisto by Beth Webb Hart is about a woman who lives in New York City, is about to get married, and has to return to her hometown, Edisto, to take care of her family in a crisis. Wait…am I getting these two books confused? Because, hello Sweet Home Alabama again. No, they’re different books, but I’m now realizing the starting premises of these books are fairly similar. However, Moon Over Edisto doesn’t turn into a mystery to be solved, but a story of how to forgive and the freedom and healing forgiveness brings. The setting is very intertwined with the plot, as two main characters are artists. A lot of the scenery is built on the description of what artworks these two characters are creating. I wish I owned the real paintings and not just descriptions of their art, because it sounds beautiful. Though I’ve lived in South Carolina my whole life and visit the coast often, I’ve never been to Edisto. I know, it’s sad. After reading this book, I realize even more it’s a problem that must be remedied soon.
I can’t embrace travel literature–I need a good plot and intriguing characters to keep me reading–but I think mental travel is one of reading’s greatest qualities. And even if you’re not looking for a book to take you to a new place, these two books are pretty good light reads apart from their settings. I’d love to hear what you think if you decide to pick one up!