A bookworm’s national tour

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Murphy's resolution takes her across the U.S.

by Anne Murphy/Special to Carolina Gateway
Reading takes you places. When we immerse ourselves in a novel, we get to visit places that are not immediately available. Whether you want to catch the Hogwarts Express to work on your defense against the dark arts, solve a few crimes with everyone’s favorite titian-haired sleuth, Nancy Drew, or simply prolong your beach vacation by visiting Elin Hilderbrand’s Nantucket without all those tourists, books can take you anywhere.  
At the beginning of 2018, I resolved to read a book set in each of the 50 states. What fun! Without specifically setting a page limit or genre, I read anything I liked.  
I can’t thank the staff at the Del Webb Library at Indian Land enough. Forty-nine of the tomes came through the library doors. The librarians even helped me with title suggestions for a couple of the tougher challenges.
My journey started with Ohio – the mystery thriller “Gone Missing” by Linda Castillo, which shows a side of Ohio Amish country no one wants to visit.
In an effort to include some better quality writing, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Montana-based “A Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” Willa Cather’s “Death Comes For the Archbishop” in New Mexico and Dominick Dunne’s “A Season in Purgatory” in Connecticut helped me meet the objective.
With a plethora of great books set in beach communities, there were multiple options to find something enjoyable for South Carolina (“Lowcountry Boil” by Susan M. Boyer), Georgia (“Savannah Breeze” by Mary Kay Andrews) and Florida (“Double Whammy” by Carl Hiaasen).
In states like Utah (“The Man Who Loved Books Too Much,” a true crime by Allison Hoover Bartlett), Idaho (“Educated: A Memoir” by Tara Westover) and Wyoming (Catherine Ryan Hyde’s drama “Take Me With You”), I stumbled upon quirky tomes that were a delight.
Yes, there was a dud – I barely completed Julie Buntin’s “Marlena,” my Michigan pick, without returning it unfinished, but Lydia Reeder’s “The Dust Bowl Girls” set in 1930s Durant, Okla., and J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy,” which could be either Kentucky (my use) or Ohio, were pure pleasure. 
I utilized different websites to better ascertain where books were set, but that wasn’t without challenge. When reading a book earmarked for Georgia – “The Mistletoe Inn” by Richard Paul Evans, I found it was actually set in Colorado and Vermont. Even the cover makes it clear it is not in Georgia!
The library came to my rescue when I was torn about what to do with North Dakota – my absolute last state. Having previously read works by Louise Erdich, who seems to be the most prolific North Dakota writer, I knew I couldn’t handle her work. Nancy Berry suggested Debbie Macomber’s “Dakota Home.” What better way to wrap up my American jaunt than with a happily-ever-after!
So, what will I do this year? I have to decide between countries of the world, an author born in every state, or perhaps a character with the same surname as each of our 45 U.S. presidents. Whatever the decision, finding new works will be a treat!