Have you ever had that jolt of recognition when you see a place in the show or movie you’re watching and you find yourself saying, “Hey! I’ve been there!”? What about getting that jolt when you’re reading a book? After you’ve had that feeling, don’t you find yourself transposing the characters, action, and setting into the physical world around you?
Setting is such an important part of a book, movie, or television series that sometimes it can even be considered another character. For gothic literature, it is even an edict of the genre that the setting is at some degree a character in its own right. Dracula probably wouldn’t be as scary if he hid out in an abandoned Brookstone® rather than the far off Bran Castle in Romania. But this holds true for any genre. When books are set in the real world, whether in the present day or the past, the setting can and will be recognized by readers. So when an author successfully spins their story so that the location of events and plots are recognizable by their audience, it only amplifies the experience of reading and brings the story further into life.
This was the feeling I had once I started reading books based in the Pacific Northwest. While reading The Lost Girls Camp of Forevermore by Kim Fu, I found myself recognizing, at least vaguely, parts of the Sound from a kayaking trip I went on in a previous year, and I was able to imagine the struggle of the girls as I was hauling my boat out of the waves. As I was reading Stray City by Chelsey Johnson, I could imagine the hot summer day and the path underneath the trees of the Park Blocks the characters took during a Pride march because it is the same path I take every morning with my dog. As I was reading Faultland by Suzy Vitello, I could practically see the winding path through a wrecked Portland and how treacherous the city would become if an earthquake destroyed it because I’ve experienced how an unexpected snowstorm in April can make the roads become almost untravelable. My knowledge of the local area while reading each of these novels enhanced my experience of the book as a whole and made me think of each of the books long after I was finished reading.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading a book based in your hometown, I personally recommend it. Your knowledge of the local area serves to level up your reading when you can place the characters and envision the same streets they walk down. Don’t know where to start? If you’re a local to the Pacific Northwest, try picking up a book from Ooligan, since we specialize in publishing books significant to the PNW. Or stop by your local bookstore, like Powell’s, where you can usually find a table or endcap dedicated to regionally based books. Or if you’re not local to the PNW, maybe think about picking up a book to elevate your next visit to Portland.