Southern Fiction Must-Reads for Summer

From the muggy marshes of Florida swampland to mint juleps sipped on a North Carolina wraparound porch as a cooling breeze drifts by, the South is filled with atmosphere and regional culture that makes for stories like no other. So pull up a chair, turn on a fan, sip a glass of sweet iced tea, and disappear into a story where the only thing hotter than the weather is the neighbor’s gossip.

Transport back to 1950s North Carolina in this classic and vivid coming of age novel. Excited to be going on a summer vacation with her family and Mary Luther, the black maid that has worked for them as far back as Jubie Watts can remember, Jubie can’t help but notice the increasingly intense levels of racial segregation the farther south they travel. Caught between childhood and adulthood, ignorance and understanding, Jubie will not be able to close her eyes to the truth of the failings of those closest to her and the society that surrounds them all, and when the tension boils over into a tragedy she will have to decide what she believes and who she wants to be in this world.

A drive-in movie theater, a charming small Alabama town, and two people with hurt in their pasts looking for a second chance at love all combine to make this a romance to remember. When Kelly Jenkins begins to fix up the town of Blue Moon’s rundown theater she didn’t suspect cutting down an old tree would draw anyone’s ire, but she didn’t know it was the favorite tree of Seth Morgan’s late daughter. But even the worst first impression is no match for the strength of the bond these two lost souls form, making a life and love in Blue Moon.

Dive back into the drama of the inimitable Wiggins family in Depression-era Lexington, Alabama, the newest scandalous saga from the incomparable Mary Monroe. Jessie and Hubert Wiggins present a united and devoted front to their church congregation on Sundays while behind closed doors Hubert is more interested in his affair with his secret lover, Leroy, and Jessie’s frustration has led her to find romance elsewhere. With mysterious serial murders putting everyone in town on edge and tensions mounting inside this tangled household, it all leads to one explosive climax, what truths will be revealed and who will be left standing in the end?

RubyLyn Bishop, a girl on the cusp of sixteen, leads this atmospheric, tender tale of love and loss set in 1969 rural Kentucky. There, she is subjected to grueling labor by her God-fearing uncle, and strives to find a ray of hope in her poverty-stricken town through her own tobacco patch, a forbidden first love, and her home-made paper fortune tellers. Taking place over the course of one blazing summer, RubyLyn will make life-changing decisions that will propel her toward a future she never could have predicted.

Raised in opulence in a beautiful Charleston mansion Jessie Roland always felt out of place, after a whirlwind marriage to a Texas senator’s son and making a new life in D.C. she expected to feel differently but she is still a fish out of water. The only time she feels at home is when she is spending time with the reclusive rancher, Luke Holt, but when she discovers she was kidnapped as a toddler everything begins to fall into place and she must set out to claim a strength she didn’t know she possessed and discover her true identity.

This is a captivating story of friendship, survival, and the intersecting lives of three vagabonds at the Swallow Hill turpentine camp in Depression-era Georgia. Cornelia, the wife of the commissary owner, finds herself the victim of his frustrations and temper. After ending her husband’s suffering in an act of mercy that would land her in jail, Rae Lynn now goes by “Ray” and is laying low as a new hire at the camp and steering clear of the law. Delwood Reese has come to Swallow Hill looking for redemption, and finds himself growing closer to “Ray,” trying to protect them in this tough and isolated environment. Filled with grit and determination, this is a story that sticks with readers long after they have stopped reading.