This selection of heartwarming fiction reads will give you comfort and reassurance in tough times.
Uncertainty has become a dominant facet of life over the past year, and many of us have turned to books to heal our anxieties about the current state of the world. Of course, we all read for different reasons — but escapism is a central component when reading fiction.
The following books are chosen for how well they can transport us away from the present and remind us about the power of fiction. They transcend through a myriad of different genres, times and places, but what unites them all — is their ability to take us away from the now.
Where the Crawdad’s Sing by Delia Owens
Nestled deep in the North Carolina coast is a dysfunctional family surrounded by the beauty of nature. Delia Owens’ novel is a thing of beauty but is juxtaposed by such sadness, abuse and the loneliness of a lost family that it leaves a lingering impression on the reader. Through Kya, we learn about her abusive father, her mother who abandoned the family and the rest of her siblings that followed suit. But Kya stayed, despite everything, because she couldn’t let go of the Marsh.
Despite its difficult subject matter, Owens takes us away from the present by delving readers into the beauty that is the Marsh. Kya’s family home is nestled right in the middle of nature; as she grows up, without a family around her, she learns how to use this to make a small living. Kya grows up with very little social interaction, preferring to take comfort in nature. But that doesn’t last forever.
Readers get lost in Kya’s world and the beauty of the marsh. It sings of solitude, the power of nature and how we need human relationships to heal ourselves. It’s beautifully written, transformative, and takes us away from our everyday lives.
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
This may seem like an odd choice, but hear me out. Written in 1859, A Tale of Two Cities captures the spirit of France during the Revolution. Dickens parallels France and London to showcase how this revolutionary spirit swept through Europe. In his characteristic storyteller nature, Dickens throws us into the historical period with so much depth that it feels like you are living and breathing at that moment.
Asides from his brilliant characterisation, plot and depiction of a historical moment in time, A Tale of Two Cities is an ode to uncertainty and is not too dissimilar to what we are living through. In that respect, reading it gave me a certain amount of comfort. Comfort that we will come out of our own uncertainty brighter and better.
But through the brutality of the French regime and the struggle that ensued, readers benefit from a degree of escapism, told through a fictionalised history.
Midnight Sun, Stephanie Meyer
A definite contrast to Dickens, I’ll say that, but remarkably, reading it has the same effect. I don’t know about you, but I found myself returning to series during the pandemic that I had read before — usually in childhood. Whether that be Harry Potter or the Twilight Saga, there was something so comforting in wrapping myself in those worlds.
Evidently, Dickens and Meyer have vast differences, but their end result is the same. You are plunged into a world far different from your own, and for that moment, you can forget about the present. Midnight Sun is the best book of the Twilight Saga. For one, there’s no Bella. Through Edward’s perspective, we learn about the long, deep and fascinating history of the Cullens. We get to see human’s through an outside perspective — and how amusing that is.
Although this read was partly inspired by nostalgia, it also provided me with essential escapism during tough times.
Hot Milk, Deborah Levy
This Deborah Levy’s novel is part poetry — part longing to go on holiday to Spain through the stunning descriptions of nature, the sea, and sand. It describes the surroundings and conflictions felt by Sofia, a young anthropologist, in minute detail as she takes her Mother to find treatments for her ailments.
In many ways, it is a coming of age story about an inverted mother-daughter relationship. But Levy’s writing style makes me crave spending long days on a hot beach in the summer sun.
Above all, it’s a reminder of what beautiful language can do and its lingering effect on our consciousness. It’s transformative and powerful.
The Library of the Lost and Found, Phaedra Patrick
Do you know those days when you crave a nice story? A story that isn’t overcomplicated, too sad, or trying to show off in any way? This is one of those. I picked The Library of the Lost and Found up when I was in a reading rut and was pleasantly surprised. It documents Martha Storm’s life, a librarian who one day finds a mysterious package on her doorstep.
Without her knowing at the time, this package has the ability to change her life imminently. What unravels is a story, for one, about the love of books and storytelling, but about the importance of prioritising ourselves and family and letting other people help us when we need it.
It’s one of those books which makes you feel warm inside — hence why it’s a great anecdote to all the uncertainty we may feel.
Uncertainty is a word that many in the future will use to describe this time, and it’s true. Wherever you are in the world, the pandemic has brought a certain degree of the unknown. Books are a physical comfort and a welcome distraction from screens and the breaking news cycle, but they can also take us to other, more welcome places when the going gets tough.
Through reading books, we can explore worlds, people, communities and places all from the comfort of our own homes — and there’s something incredibly soothing about that. As we slowly look to come out of the pandemic, uncertainty will stay with us, but hopefully still, will our love of fiction.
Please note, this was initially published on April 12, 2020 at Medium.com