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Southern Literature

Kentucky Books

Here's a list of recommended books all set in Kentucky:

Hannah Coulter: A Novel by Wendell Berry

In the latest instalment in Wendell Berry's long story about the citizens of Port William, Kentucky, readers learn of the Coulters' children, of the Feltners and Branches, and how survivors "live right on."

"Ignorant boys killing each other," is just about all Nathan Coulter would tell his wife about the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war while the lives of others were mourned. In her 70s, Nathan's wife, Hannah, now has time to tell of the years since the war.

All That Glitters, by Gilbert Morris

After her mother's death, Afton joins her father on the set of the film he is directing in Kentucky, where her Christian faith is reinforced by a mentally retarded recluse.

Beyond Mammoth Cave - A Tale of Obsession in the World's Longest Cave by James D. Borden, Roger W. Brucker

In Beyond Mammoth Cave: A Tale of Obsession in the Worlds Longest Cave, James D. Borden and Roger W. Brucker provide gripping first-person accounts of the discoveries, including Roppel Cave, that made Kentucky's Mammoth Cave three times longer than any other cave in the world.

Kinfolks: The Wilgus Stories by Gurney Norman

A series of short stories unfolds surrounding Wilgus Collier and his large extended family, as the boy grows to manhood in the eastern Kentucky mountains.

Books Set in Lexington

A Wounded Snake, Joseph G. Anthony

It's 1898 and the "coloured" population of Lexington, Kentucky, is trying to cross the boundaries imposed by newly-legalised Jim Crow laws while holding onto rights won in the Civil War. We follow the struggle for rights and dignity through the eyes of multiple narrators, especially Noah Webster, the young aide to Robert O'Hara Benjamin (editor, lawyer, sometimes preacher, and social justice advocate.)

The Refuge, Ann H. Gabhart

When Darcie and Walter Goodwin hear of a new cholera epidemic sweeping the area, they join the Shakers whose villages seem immune to the disease. It's meant to be a temporary stay, but Walter is killed in a riverboat accident. With no family and no money, Darcie has little choice but to stay with the Shakers. To complicate matters, she is expecting a baby conceived before she and her husband came to the Shaker village. Marital relationships are considered sinful in this celibate community, putting Darcie in a unique--and lonely--position. Can the arrival of widower Flynn Keller and his headstrong daughter offer Darcie the hope of happiness . . . and family?

Bourbon’s Backroads: A Journey through Kentucky’s Distilling Landscape, Karl Raitz

With more than fifty distilleries in the state, bourbon is as synonymous with Kentucky as horses and basketball. As one of the commonwealth's signature industries, bourbon distilling has influenced the landscape and heritage of the region for more than two centuries. Blending several topics―tax revenue, railroads, the mechanics of brewing, geography, landscapes, and architecture―this primer and geographical guide presents a detailed history of the development of Kentucky's distilling industry.

The Emancipator’s Wife, Barbara Hambly

As a girl growing up in Kentucky, she lived a sheltered, privileged life filled with picnics and plantation balls. Vivacious, impulsive, and intoxicated by politics, she is a Todd of Lexington, an aristocratic family whose ancestors defeated the British. But no one knows her secret fears and anxieties. Although she is courted by the most eligible suitors in the land, including future senator Stephen Douglas, it is a gangly lawyer from Illinois who captures her heart. After a stormy courtship and a broken engagement, Abraham Lincoln will marry twenty-four-year-old Mary Todd and give her a ring inscribed with the words “Love Is Eternal.”

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards

Kim Edwards’s stunning novel begins on a winter night in 1964 in Lexington, Kentucky, when a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy, but the doctor immediately recognises that his daughter has Down Syndrome. Rationalising it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split second decision that will alter all of their lives forever. He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself. So begins this beautifully told story that unfolds over a quarter of a century—in which these two families, ignorant of each other, are yet bound by the fateful decision made that winter night long ago.

If you are interested in films set in Kentucky, click here.

 

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