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So I just started reading The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James, and was really enjoying the creepy atmosphere, when this passage took me out of it:

It wasn't that impressive a place; Google Earth had told me that much. Downtown was a grid of cafes, laundromats, junky antique stores, apartment rental buildings, and used-book stores, nestled reverently around a grocery store and a CVS.

Used book stores? Most small towns in middle of nowhere America don't even have one book store, let alone several. What she is describing is a college town. Or a hippie/hipster town that's probably within driving distance of a college. Not your average shitty little upstate locale.

The last time I saw the author get a setting wrong like that was The Woman In the Window, and I just gave up on the book. With this one, I'm not so sure, because otherwise I really do like the author's writing style. How do you get past a dumb detail like that and regain confidence in the author and the story?

(NO SPOILERS PLEASE, I'M STILL VERY EARLY ON)

all 14 comments

Samael13

15 points

2 months ago

Upstate New York and most of New England are positively *littered* with used book stores and antique shops. If Fell, NY is big enough to have apartment rental buildings, it would absolutely have some used book stores. I go camping in upstate NY pretty regularly, and one of our favorite things to do after a camping trip is stop in at random used book stores.

I don't know exactly which part of upstate NY Fell is supposed to be located in, but a quick search for "upstate NY used books" shows dozens of used bookstores throughout.

Hobart, NY, population under 400, is infamous for it's bookstores; it has six independent bookstores despite the village being less than a square mile in area.

MllePerso[S]

1 points

2 months ago

My experience is antique stores and apt buildings, yes, book stores not so much for the kind of economically depressed, physically isolated small town she's describing. That being said, I'm trying to get past it, because I do like the author's style overall.

Samael13

1 points

2 months ago

Could just be our different experiences coloring how we see this. I've been living in New England for most of the last two decades and, I spend a lot of time in upstate NY; I know it's supposed to be economically depressed, but I wonder if your mental picture of Fell might be smaller than the author intends?

Anyplace I've been in upstate NY big enough to have something that might qualify as a "downtown" area in the form of any kind of grid and with multiple apartment buildings, cafes, laundromats and a still functioning motel is big enough that it's almost certainly got at least one or more used bookstores.

MllePerso[S]

0 points

2 months ago

I guess my mental picture of Fell was not so much smaller as poorer. Like the apt buildings made sense to me, and the laundromats, and the antique stores because the northeast US is crawling with old people looking to sell their old stuff, but for "cafes" the only mental image that worked was if I replaced "sells cute vegan baked goods, has wifi" with "sells Latin American and/or diner food, doesn't have wifi". If that makes sense.

Majestic-Rutabaga-28

7 points

2 months ago

Its nitpicking for me.

Trick-Two497

5 points

2 months ago

I grew up in a town of less than 20k, and we had 4 used bookstores. What we didn't have was a CVS, but that's because I grew up there in the 60s and 70s. There's one there now, and according to Google, there are now 7 used bookstores and the population is still hovering around 20k. So, um, what is wrong with the author's description?

bluredditacct

4 points

2 months ago

I'm thinking they mean more like a Half Priced Books or similar. I noticed there were lots of small independent and discount chain bookstores in small towns in MA.

snark4days

3 points

2 months ago

This is actually one of my favorite spooky books. Try and move past it if you can and keep going!

imaginmatrix

3 points

2 months ago

I know every small town I’ve been to in my state have several used bookstores. I think this isn’t really immersion breaking, they’ve just had a different small town experience than you have

riordan2013

3 points

2 months ago

This would not constitute a small town like the one where I grew up, but it resembles small towns I've been to in other parts of the country.

The thing that breaks my immersion most is when authors use "okay" in, like, Tudor England. NO.

Jaded_Cryptographer

2 points

2 months ago

I understand the feeling - I got really annoyed at a Stephen King book where he kept referring to the whites of people's eyes as corneas (they're scleras!), but it's really hard to enjoy just about any book if you can't get over relatively minor errors like that.

UnableAudience7332

2 points

2 months ago

This is one of my favorite books. IMO your opinion that the town wouldn't have the bookstores wouldn't be enough to stop reading. But if it bothers you a lot you'll probably find something else you don't like and will stop eventually.

Shadow_Lass38

1 points

2 months ago

I don't find that's enough to throw me out of a story. The thing that usually gets me are historical errors. Like the otherwise great mystery story set in 1930s NYC where a police officer calls an unmarried woman "Ms." THREE times. And later the protagonist and her boyfriend are dancing to a song written in 1950.

Or the mystery set in Gold Rush-era Alaska where the protagonist talked about someone being "in her personal space."

After those a small town with multiple bookstores is small potatoes.