As a Sonoma County resident, I love reading books that are based around here. Some of the world’s best authors have called Sonoma County their home, including Jack London and Jack Kerouac, who have both written about Sonoma County in their novels.
That one time my kid thought I was one of the most famous *people* in the world. I’m writing about families again for the Press Democrat! Tune into my stories and other topics at the family blog, The Village.
With its gorgeous landscape, towering redwoods, and close proximity to the ocean, Sonoma County serves as a wonderful backdrop for any story, including several of mine that I’ve written. The town of Petaluma plays a large part in the Hope series. Locals will recognize a few landmark restaurants mentioned in all three of the novels. Bodega Bay is the backdrop to my magical realism romance, Come Here, Cupcake (a book that will one day have a sequel!). And the book I’m the dystopian romance I’m currently working on, Numbered, mentions several Sonoma County and Northern California locations, though it’s set in the future.
Here are a few other books worth checking out that are set in Sonoma County.
Note: I use affiliate links at no cost to you, but that offer me a small kickback with every purchase to help fund my book projects.
The Underside of Joy, Sere Prince Halverson
Halverson’s debut novel takes place in the fictional town of Elbow, but with familiar landmarks anyone in Sonoma County would recognize. The story is about Ella Beene, a widow caught in a custody battle for her stepdaughter with the girl’s natural mother, despite the fact that Ella has been the a steady mother figure in the young girl’s life. Following her husband’s drowning death, Ella is not only facing this battle, but also fighting her own internal battle as her husband’s financial secrets come to light. Halverson’s writing is exquisite, detailing the gorgeous landscape in delicate prose and telling a heartbreaking story with tenderness and heart.
A Fire Story, Brian Fies
Anyone who lives in Sonoma County has their own personal story of what happened to them in October 2017 when Santa Rosa and surrounding areas burned in a devastating firestorm. Graphic novelist Brian Fies had his own story to tell, sharing the horrible details of fleeing his home in the dead of night, and coming back to a pile of ash where his house once stood. Through illustrations and intimate details, Fies not only shares what it was like to lose his home, but also the stories of other people who lost their homes, along with what the recovery process has been like. I’ve met Fies on several occasions, and he is just the nicest, most humble man in person. But you should also know that his story won a Grammy when it was retold as a video on PBS. Fies gave a voice to many of us who will never forget October, 2017.
The following books I have not read, but they are on my To Be Read list. The descriptions are from Amazon.
Into the Forest, Jean Hegland
Now a major motion picture. Set in the near-future, Into the Forest is a powerfully imagined novel that focuses on the relationship between two teenage sisters living alone in their Northern California forest home. Over 30 miles from the nearest town, and several miles away from their nearest neighbor, Nell and Eva struggle to survive as society begins to decay and collapse around them. No single event precedes society’s fall. There is talk of a war overseas and upheaval in Congress, but it still comes as a shock when the electricity runs out and gas is nowhere to be found. The sisters consume the resources left in the house, waiting for the power to return. Their arrival into adulthood, however, forces them to reexamine their place in the world and their relationship to the land and each other.
P.S. I feel privileged to be in the same writing club as Jean Hegland, who is truly a gifted author.
Divisadero, Michael Ondaatje
From the celebrated author of The English Patient and Anil’s Ghost comes a remarkable, intimate novel of intersecting lives that ranges across continents and time. In the 1970s in Northern California a father and his teenage daughters, Anna and Claire, work their farm with the help of Coop, an enigmatic young man who makes his home with them. Theirs is a makeshift family, until it is shattered by an incident of violence that sets fire to the rest of their lives. Divisadero takes us from San Francisco to the raucous backrooms of Nevada’s casinos and eventually to the landscape of southern France. As the narrative moves back and forth through time and place, we find each of the characters trying to find some foothold in a present shadowed by the past.
The Life She Wants, Robyn Carr
In the aftermath of her financier husband’s suicide, Emma Shay Compton’s dream life is shattered. Richard Compton stole his clients’ life savings to fund a lavish life in New York City and, although she was never involved in the business, Emma bears the burden of her husband’s crimes. She is left with nothing. Only one friend stands by her, a friend she’s known since high school, who encourages her to come home to Sonoma County. But starting over isn’t easy, and Sonoma is full of unhappy memories, too. And people she’d rather not face, especially Riley Kerrigan.
Riley and Emma were like sisters—until Riley betrayed Emma, ending their friendship. Emma left town, planning to never look back. Now, trying to stand on her own two feet, Emma can’t escape her husband’s reputation and is forced to turn to the last person she thought she’d ever ask for help—her former best friend. It’s an uneasy reunion as both women face the mistakes they’ve made over the years. Only if they find a way to forgive each other—and themselves—can each of them find the life she wants.
P.S. Carr also wrote A Summer in Sonoma, a sweet romance story.