Fifty States Of Fiction: Arkansas


We can’t always travel to the places on our bucket list. But we can go there with books! I started the Fifty States Of Fiction challenge with the aim of reading one book from every state in the country. Each week in 2017 I’ll be here to talk about a different state, share with you some geographical fun facts, and explore how a novel, play, or personal narrative captures the essence of the area. Want to follow along? Check out this free printable calendar I’ve created just for you! Let’s get started!


Today’s State: Arkansas

Nickname: Natural State

Motto: “The People Rule”

Bird: Mockingbird

Flower: Apple blossom

Entered the union in: 1836

Now, pack your bags everybody. We’re about to explore Arkansas as John Corey Whaley portrays it in Where Things Come Back.


Lily, Arkansas is a small, well-kept town of 3,947 people living in the middle of nowhere halfway between Little Rock and Memphis. Everyone in Lily above the age of eighteen has tried and subsequently failed to leave behind their dead-end birthplace. But, when ornithologist John Barling arrives claiming the Lazarus woodpecker has returned, everyone is filled with excitement. With news of the bird’s discovery, Burke’s Burger Box introduces the Lazarus Burger to the menu. Merle Hodge leads water tours through the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in search of the elusive bird. Cullen Witter’s mother, the local hairdresser, even invents the Woodpecker: a spiky Mohawk cut accented with red hair paint. While most of Lily’s citizens develop a newfound sense of town pride, Cullen doesn’t buy into any of the hype. He works three shifts a week at the Handy Stop convenience store right off the I-40 selling snacks, lottery tickets, and gasoline. He basks on the banks of the White River with his best friend and his little brother. He spends his nights sober with girls at the drive-in movie theater. Everyday he dreams of graduating high school and leaving Lily behind for good. Then a frantic believer kidnaps his little brother and suddenly Cullen isn’t so eager to leave his small town home behind anymore.

Have you read any other books set in Arkansas? Have you traveled there yourself? Make sure to let me know what the Natural State means to you in the comments! Check back here next week to explore California through literature.

And remember, if you want to keep up with our schedule as we travel the country, you can download my free printable calendar.

See you all next week!


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