5 Best Southern Gothic Books

5 Best Southern Gothic Books

Southern lit fans, take note: You will find death, magic, mystery, God, the Devil, rivers, and a whole bunch of snakes in these 5 best Southern Gothic books.

1. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

“The story concerns Thomas Sutpen, a poor man who finds wealth and then marries into a respectable family. His ambition and extreme need for control bring about his ruin and the ruin of his family. Sutpen’s story is told by several narrators, allowing the reader to observe variations in the saga as it is recounted by different speakers.”

2. Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor’s astonishing and haunting first novel, is a classic of twentieth-century literature. It is the story of Hazel Motes, a twenty-two-year-old caught in an unending struggle against his inborn, desperate fate. He falls under the spell of a “blind” street preacher named Asa Hawks and his degenerate fifteen-year-old daughter, Sabbath Lily. In an ironic, malicious gesture of his own non-faith, and to prove himself a greater cynic than Hawks, Motes founds the Church Without Christ, but is still thwarted in his efforts to lose God. He meets Enoch Emery, a young man with “wise blood,” who leads him to a mummified holy child and whose crazy maneuvers are a manifestation of Motes’s existential struggles. This tale of redemption, retribution, false prophets, blindness, blindings, and wisdom gives us one of the most riveting characters in American fiction.”

3. The Sugar Maple Grove by John E. Espy

“In early twentieth century Van Lear, Kentucky, miners in a conscripted coal town go down to work in the shaft only to come back up in pieces. Company-hired detectives and preachers terrorize the workforce, their women and widows, and children into submission with threats of violence and eternal damnation while the Knights subjugate blacks to acts of unspeakable violence. Slavery is a way of life. Murder is a daily occurrence. Then one day in the Sugar Maple Grove, Moses Kitchen takes a stand against the members of the Ku Klux Klan sparking a small but enduring revolt against corporate, religious, and racial tyranny that finds its way throughout the generations from the son of a shoe salesman to a feisty, young female lawyer and beyond in this epic Southern Gothic about race, poverty, religion, and barbarism, and those brave enough to dare to see a different society.”

4. The Heaven Of Mercury by Brad Watson

“Finus Bates has loved Birdie Wells since the day he saw her do a naked cartwheel in the woods in 1916. Later he won her at poker, lost her, then nearly won her again after the mysterious poisoning of her womanizing husband. Does Vish, the old medicine woman down in the ravine, hold the key to Birdie’s elusive character? Or does Parnell, the town undertaker, whose unspeakable desires bring lust for life and death together? Or does the secret lie with some other colorful old-timer in Mercury, Mississippi, not such a small town anymore?”

5. The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor

“First published in 1960, The Violent Bear It Away is a landmark in American literature―a dark and absorbing example of the Gothic sensibility and bracing satirical voice that are united in Flannery O’Connor’s work.”

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THE SUGAR MAPLE GROVE by John E. Espy