After a bit of hunting and foraging, I have found more than 50 novels set in Arizona for your sojourn to this south-west American state and put them up on the main Packabook site (just click on ‘Arizona’ over to the right of the page).
Arizona has a bit of everything — well ok, no beaches, but I guess the Grand Canyon kind of makes up for that — there are deserts, forests and mountain ranges to explore, as well as a border with Mexico that provides plenty of action and intellectual fodder for readers and writers alike.
So, the only question now, is where to head to first on your Arizona journey
You could make your way along the Colorado River…
Get your adrenaline flowing (well, as much as you want your adrenaline to flow sitting in your armchair!) with Elizabeth Hyde’s In the Heart of the Canyon. Fifteen people and a dog make a 13-day journey along the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Forced together, there’s plenty of physical and emotional challenges for this disparate group as they navigate the rapids and their own dramas.
Here’s some of the glowing reviews from Amazon readers…
“How much did I love this book? I couldn’t resist gulping it down in two sittings, oblivious to my own real life (yeah, sorry about that frozen pizza dinner, honey…but I was busy rafting down the Colorado River). A huge, enthusiastic thumbs-up for this riveting page-turner.”
“Hyde is a stunningly vivid writer who reveals the natural world of river, canyon, and sky with color and accuracy. A consummate storyteller, she surprised and entertained me with In the Heart of the Canyon.”
“I was enthralled by her imagery, captivated by how well nuanced she captured the inevitable transformation that happens to anyone who opens their heart to the navel of the West that is the Grand Canyon.”
You could also travel back to 1928 with Lisa Michaels’s Grand Ambition where honeymooners Glen and Bessie Hyde, inspired by other adventurous couples of the time, decide to run the rapids of the Grand Canyon; Bessie hoping to be the first woman to negotiate such a treacherous stretch of the Colorado River. Based on a true story, the novel weaves the story of the young couple’s journey with the search to find them when they fail to arrive at their destination.
Amazon reviewers had this to say…
“A rare poetic adventure novel. This is a tremendous book, the story is captivating and the writing is lean and beautiful.”
“Lisa Michaels not only succeeds in resurrecting and imagining Glen and Bessie Hyde, two obscure historical figures, she also blesses them with beautifully felt inner lives and engaging dialogue.”
“This book could be called a real page turner except one wants to linger over the gorgeous sentences describing the Grand Canyon and the wild rapids. The novel richly paints an intimate portrait of two young people striving for a charmed life.”
Or head down to the borderlands…
Arizona shares a border with Mexico which (according to the Wikipedia gods) is the most frequently crossed international border in the world; 350 million people crossing legally each year. Add that to the inevitable illegal crossings, and you’ve got a whole lot of border action going on, creating an environment ripe for dramatic and challenging fiction.
In Philip Caputo’s Crossers, a wall street financial analyst tries to overcome his grief after the death of his wife by moving to his cousin’s cattle ranch on the border. Soon he finds himself caught up in illegal border crossings, drug cartels and a family history he can’t run away from. The novel tackles the divisive issues of illegal immigration and people smuggling, in a manner many readers found illuminating.
“Crossers is an amazing read– layer upon layer we are introduced to the complexities of border life from all the different angles.”
“The book is grand in scope, historically vivid and magnetic in its attraction.”
“The action is brisk and well plotted, the characters interesting, the story compelling. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and so will you.”
Similar themes are tackled in Bella Pollen’s Midnight Cactus in which Englishwoman Alice Coleman attempts to escape her loveless marriage by taking her two small children to the wilds of the border area. Alice is forced onto the horns of an ethical dilemma when she inadvertently hires a gang of illegal workers. There is plenty of praise in the Amazon reviews
“I never wanted to turn the last pages, of this book. The more exciting the climax became the more I dreaded coming to the end. Midnight Cactus is romantic,exciting, scary,tender, and above all passionate. I loved this book.”
“This book and its stunning resolution stayed with me long after I had finished reading it. Highly recommended.”
But if you are actually from Southern Arizona, you may join a few of the reviewers who were appalled at apparent geographical and factual errors about the region, as well as some bad Spanish translations. While they conceded the story had great value – the “lack of editing” completely put them off. Don’t say you haven’t been warned!
You could even meet with some feisty women of the past…
If the following novels are anything to go by, Arizona has definitely raised some spirited women, so if you in the need for a bit of ‘girl power’ these might inspire you.
Four generations of Sarah Prine’s family. Prine is third from left. Image courtesy of Nancy Turner.
These is my Words is the first of three diary-format novels by Nancy Turner which chronicle the daily struggles of Sarah Prine as she and her family set up home in the Arizona Territory of the 1880s. It sounds like Sarah is one tough cookie and mighty handy with a rifle as she deals with all the trials of pioneer life and love. The books are based on the author’s family memoirs, and sound like a terrific read….
“Like many other reviewers, I read this book in a few sittings, staying up until the wee hours of the morning, and neglecting my husband and kids (except for reading parts to my 7-yr. old daughter), because I was so involved in Sarah’s life. I read it on the treadmill, in the car, making dinner, at work…just couldn’t put it down.”
“Nancy Turner’s characters are vivid, believable, real. They grow through the course of the novel to become your friends, family and loved ones. I have never cried, laughed and sighed with relief so many times through one book.”
“I really loved this woman, and this book. It rang so true. I read it in one day, as I couldn’t put it down.”
“This book was so fascinating that I didn’t want to finish reading it because I loved the characters so much.”
And there’s more…
Also worth mentioning are a couple of big name authors who have set books in Arizona – Barbara Kingsolver gives us The Bean Trees and Animal Dreams, while in S John Updike writes of an upper-class New England matron escaping her marriage (Arizona appears to attract such women if these books are anything to go by) to live in an Arizona commune.
And if you are after a bit of crime action, then the J.A. Jance novels featuring Sheriff Joanna Brady come highly recommended by Packabook reader, blogger and Arizona local Vera Marie Badertscher from A Traveler’s Library…
These are just a taste of the novels set in Arizona you can explore over at Packabook – enjoy, and let us know of any others you can recommend in the comments….
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