Books, Love, Marriage, Writer

Books, Love

50 States, 50 Love Stories

From sea to shining sea, here’s a tour of unforgettable fiction that explores matters of the heart.


Every state has a great love story. NYTimes Books has gone state by state and picked the best tales of passion, heartbreak and love.

From sea to shining sea, here’s a tour of unforgettable fiction that explores matters of the heart.

Where the Red Fern Grows ” “To the conventional scene of a boy and his dogs, Mr. Rawls has brought a fresh eye, a quick phrase and a close, specialized knowledge of the ways in which hounds hunt coons and coons deceive hounds,” our reviewer wrote in 1961. “If you care for the sort of writing too often dismissed as ‘folksy’ and soft, then you will find this a rewarding book.” Image Oregon Gayle Forman, “If I Stay” One February morning, a family goes for a drive and everything changes in an instant. There’s a car accident and the sole survivor is 17-year-old Mia, who must decide (from her hospital bed, through a pea soup fog of grief) whether she can carry on without her family. This is a love story about friends and community — and music. Pennsylvania Juliet, Naked ” “Hornby seems, as ever, fascinated by the power of music to guide the heart, and in this very funny, very charming novel, he makes you see why it matters,” our reviewer wrote. The music at the center of the story is from a 20-year-old album called “Juliet,” known to be one of the greatest “breakup albums” of its time. How do these songs still influence and move Hornby’s characters? Read the book to find out. Image Rhode Island Beatriz Williams, “A Hundred Summers” Lily Dane, nursing heartbreak, is summering at her family’s house in a moneyed Rhode Island enclave when her former fiancé and former best friend unexpectedly show up — as husband and wife. Complicating the high-society tale of love, loss, gossip and duplicity is the great New England hurricane of 1938, which is barreling up the Atlantic coast straight toward them all. South Carolina The Prince of Tides ” Tom Wingo is a middle-aged former high school teacher who can no longer outrun the demons of the “grotesque family melodrama” of his childhood. Encouraged by his sister’s psychiatrist (described as “one of those go-to-hell New York women with the incorruptible carriage of lionesses”), he agrees to talk about his childhood. What he reveals and whom he falls for are classic Conroy — improbable, yet … who can resist? South Dakota Nora Roberts, “Black Hills” Childhood friends-turned-sweethearts Coop and Lil first meet as grade-schoolers when he’s dispatched to spend summers on his grandparents’ ranch. Though their relationship ends in heartbreak, they meet again years later when Coop — now a retired New York City police detective — returns to South Dakota and finds that Lil, a wildlife biologist, is being stalked, possibly by a serial killer. There’s a reason people call Roberts “the queen of romantic suspense.” Tennessee A Death in the Family ” Agee’s posthumously published novel, which won the 1958 Pulitzer Prize, is a study in grief and love. After a young husband is killed in a terrible car accident on a sticky summer night in 1915, the family struggles to come to terms with his loss. “Agee’s book cannot be judged as another novel of the week,” Alfred Kazin wrote in his review of the book for The Times. “It is an utterly individual and original book, and it is the work of a writer whose power with English words can make you gasp.” Texas Giant ” This racy, larger-than-life love story of a bookish Virginia socialite and a Texas rancher — famously made into a movie starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean — was the “it book” of 1952. “‘Giant’ makes marvelous reading,” The Times wrote. “Wealth piled on wealth, wonder on wonder in a stunning, splendiferous pyramid of ostentation.” Utah The 19th Wife ” This novel is about two wives in polygamous marriages: the real historical figure Ann Eliza Young, who was much younger than her husband, Brigham, the founder of Salt Lake City; and BeckyLyn, a fictional contemporary woman accused of shooting her husband dead. Ebershoff’s book sets out to give a history and critique of polygamy, shedding light on the dynamics it creates and how the practice has evolved. Vermont The Secret History ” In Tartt’s gripping debut, a handful of students at Hampden — an idyllic but isolated liberal arts college in Vermont — form intense bonds with one another and with their classics professor, “who nurtures both their sense of moral elevation and an insularity from conventional college life that ultimately proves fatal,” our reviewer said. “The writing throughout ‘The Secret History’ is at once lush and precise, and it keeps the more preposterous aspects of the plot in check. Ms. Tartt is especially adept at showing how Hampden’s ‘hermetic, overheated atmosphere’ leads to a melodramatic inflation of emotions that in turn results in acts of violence.” Virginia Bridge to Terabithia ” You might have read this one in fifth grade, but this Newbery Medal winner is always worth a revisit (and no, we’re not talking about the movie). Two friends conjure an enchanted land in the woods behind their houses. It’s a place to escape the real world — until the day one of them doesn’t come home. Paterson writes: “She had tricked him. She had made him leave his old self behind and come into her world, and then before he was really at home in it but too late to go back, she had left him stranded there — like an astronaut wandering about on the moon. Alone.” Washington Snow Falling on Cedars ” On an island in Puget Sound in 1954, the body of a fisherman is pulled out of the sea, trapped in his own net. ​A Japanese-American man is charged with his murder, and the ensuing trial leads the town’s newspaper editor to reflect on his long repressed love for the accused man’s wife. The novel, which became a best seller and was adapted into a 1999 feature film, explores the sometimes porous line between unrequited love and resentment, and how deep-seated animosity and fear can erode a community. West Virginia Lark and Termite ” Phillips’s fourth book unfolds in the 1950s in Korea and West Virginia, where a teenage girl named Lark cares for her half brother, Termite, who can’t walk or speak, after their mother abandons them and their father dies while serving in Korea. Told in alternating points of view, the novel explores the ferociously protective love that can grow between siblings, as Lark worries that Social Services might take her brother away. “Repeated images and leitmotifs link these people’s stories together, lending the novel a haunting musical quality, even as they suggest the unconscious, almost magical bonds shared by people who are connected by blood or love or memory,” Michiko Kakutani wrote in a review for The Times. Wisconsin The Art of Fielding ” “If it seems a stretch for a baseball novel to hold truth and beauty and the entire human condition in its mitt, well, ‘The Art of Fielding’ isn’t really a baseball novel at all, or not only,” Gregory Cowles wrote in these pages in 2011. “It’s also a campus novel and a bromance (and for that matter a full-fledged gay romance), a comedy of manners and a tragicomedy of errors — the baseball kind as well as the other kind.” Image Read more: The New York Times

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