Cozy stories set in the pacific northwest
August 28, 2022 5:17 PM   Subscribe

I've always felt drawn to the pacific northwest. I particularly found the video game gone home comforting, both because of its PNW setting but also because of the 90s references. Can you recommend stories in any media that fulfill that 'cozy PNW' vibe? I'm open to books, stories, games, movies, anything.
posted by mattholomew to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You might love the Life Is Strange series, especially the first one. It's set in a town modeled (I think?) on Astoria, Oregon. There are some spectacularly uncozy things that happen but there's a fair amount of coziness too.
posted by derrinyet at 5:29 PM on August 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed Timothy Eagan’s The Good Rain. It’s a series of essays about the PNW, with history, anthropology, and conservation in the mix.
posted by dbmcd at 5:32 PM on August 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

This list of cozy mysteries from CrimeReads is a good starting point.
posted by bookmammal at 5:32 PM on August 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

It's not happy or uplifting in any way, but Twin Peaks is set here and at times captures a lot of the PNW logging town vibe.

Oh and The Beachcombers!
posted by wats at 5:52 PM on August 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

My former coworker Pam Stucky has published a few mysteries she's written that're set in a fictional town on the Skykomish river, somewhere west of Sultan, I think. They're small-town murder mysteries featuring the town librarian as the amateur detective. There are 4 of them, and, despite being murder mysteries, I found them cozy. Final Chapter is the first book of the series, and I haven't read her standalone mystery.

She has also written some epistolary novels starting with Letters from Wishing Rock (a novel with recipes). Looks like 3 novels and a book that's just recipes, I suppose. I have read the first book and noticed some recipes of hers that I've had; all good stuff. "Wishing Rock," is a fictional Washington town where the entire city is in one giant building.

In TV, a couple obvious choices:

Twin Peaks. Said town is described as being close to Idaho and Canada, which places it hours away from the Cascade Mountains in which it is actually set and filmed. It's another murder mystery, at least to start with, but it's David Lynch's take on small town secrets, noir storytelling, murder mysteries, and all of the above centered (if you can call anyone in the ensemble the center) a weirdly square and chipper FBI Special Agent who can talk about coffee and pie for days.

Northern Exposure, set in Alaska, filmed in the Cascades, another fish-out-of-water/small town story, but this time as an ensemble dramedy.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:55 PM on August 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

Beverly Cleary's many novels about children, including the ones about Ramona Quimby and her family, are set in Portland, Oregon.

Betty MacDonald's memoirs are set in Washington State, including The Egg and I about her life on a farm on the Olympic Peninsula.
posted by JonJacky at 7:23 PM on August 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

Can't vouch for the cozy because I haven't read it yet but Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon has been on my list for a long time.
posted by Rash at 7:43 PM on August 28, 2022

I've done my part in my post upthread. But I have to say, as a lifelong resident and reader, that the characteristic mood of the Pacific Northwest is not quite what I would call cosy. There is an element of that --- reading indoors while the rain falls outside -- but it is mixed with melancholy, and my favorite literature and art about the PNW captures that.

And there is often an elegaic quality to the works that is especially poignant now that the region is becoming overrun with technology and money and is being completely rebuilt so that the place where we grew up is becoming unrecognizable, and there is little space anymore for the kind of people that gave it its character.

Off the top of my head, here are some works that capture that Pacific Northwest mood for me:

Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey, a novel about labor troubles in a logging town in Oregon around 1960.

Trouble in Mind, the 1985 movie by Alan Rudolph with Kris Kristoferson and Genevieve Bujold --- and Divine in a straight role -- filmed and set in Seattle, called The Rainy City in the movie.

The Real West Marginal Way by Richard Hugo, a memoir about growing up and coming of age in Seattle in the 1930s and after. In it, Hugo writes, "Seattle is not really a very festive place." Seattle and other PNW locales are also the settings for many of Hugo's poems, many of which really nail the feeling of nostalgia, melancholy, and elegy I am trying to describe.

The Other by David Guterson, about two families in Seattle in the 1950s and 60s, and his other novels including Snow Falling On Cedars , Our Lady of the Forest and several others.

Stanley Park by Timothy Taylor, a novel set in the restaurant business in Vancouver, BC.

The Cold Millions by Jess Walter, about labor troubles in Spokane in 1909.

There are many more, but that's enough for now.
posted by JonJacky at 8:01 PM on August 28, 2022 [7 favorites]

"Mink Island", by Brent Purvis, is a light comic mystery novel set on Prince of Wales Island (a large, mostly wilderness island in Southeast Alaska). I'd describe it as written by someone who has seemingly taken a look at what Carl Hiaasen's novels do for Florida and thought "I could try to do that sort of thing in Alaska."

What Hiaasen does is harder than it looks, and Purvis doesn't rise all the way to that level, but nevertheless does a halfway decent job and gets enough of the feel of P.O.W. (as SE Alaskans refer to Prince of Wales Island) to be worth a quick read, especially if you have Kindle Unlimited and can get the book that way.

You know.. if you like that kind of thing.

There were sequels but I don't particularly recommend them.
posted by Nerd of the North at 9:58 PM on August 28, 2022

Actually, after posting the previous response, I think perhaps a better recommendation for southeast Alaska would be John Straley's "The Big Both Ways".
posted by Nerd of the North at 10:05 PM on August 28, 2022

The movie Old Joy is transcendent, about two friends hiking to Bagby Hot Springs.
posted by veery at 6:43 AM on August 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

They're not exactly cozy, but I'd say cozy-adjacent - Ursula K LeGuin wrote Searoad, a book of linked short stories about a small town on the Oregon coast.
posted by momus_window at 7:59 AM on August 29, 2022

Steve Martin's adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, Roxanne, is set in a fictional town in Washington and had exteriors filmed in Nelson, BC.

10 Things I Hate About You was filmed in Seattle and Tacoma.

The Sandra Bullock/Ryan Reynolds romcom The Proposal largely takes place in Alaska.

And I can't believe nobody's mentioned Sleepless in Seattle.
posted by fedward at 8:36 AM on August 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

Don't forget Northern Exposure . It's set in a cozy Alaskan village, with little mention of life outside the village.
posted by monotreme at 8:38 AM on August 29, 2022

David Pitt-Brooke’s CHASING CLAYOQUOT is extremely PNW, absolutely gives me the PNW feelings I think you’re describing. It’s so PNW it comes wreathed in ocean mist. It’s a journal of a year in and around the Tofino area, on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island.
Related semi-serious suggestion: maybe look for coffee-table photo books of PNW nature places and set them up in a panoramic ring around you.
posted by TangoCharlie at 8:45 AM on August 29, 2022

Have you read any Douglas Coupland?

Canadian author from Burnaby, he writes most of his stories with at least one foot in Vancouver/the lower mainland. I find his writing really captures the feel of the landscape - I grew up in Vancouver and his books always feel Like home.

I’d also recommend works by Emily Carr! She’s an artist and that’s how most people know her, but she also wrote amazing stories about growing up and living in Victoria, the west coast of BC and Vancouver in the late 1800s and 20th century. She offers an interesting perspective about a very specific time in history. She was an unusual and talented woman.
posted by dazedandconfused at 9:35 AM on August 29, 2022

The game Lake is also set in that area in the late 1980s; you play as a woman in a powerful software dev role who takes time off to cover her father's job at the local post office. The plot revolves around reconnecting with old friends, seeing the changes in the town, and coming to terms with what you want out of life. It's a very chill game.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:17 AM on August 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

Black Hole by Charles Burns.
posted by oflinkey at 12:19 PM on August 29, 2022

Another Roadside Attraction, by Tom Robbins. Outlandish, late 60s hippie vibe, but 100% PNW in setting and atmosphere.
posted by lhauser at 1:00 PM on August 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:12 PM on August 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

Betty MacDonald also wrote the Mrs Piggle-Wiggle books, though iirc they're set in an unspecified location.
posted by brujita at 3:39 PM on August 29, 2022

I wouldn't call it "cozy", but the game What Remains of Edith Finch is set on Orcas Island, and captures the feel and flavor of living here pretty damn well.
posted by xedrik at 7:44 AM on August 30, 2022

... and Northern Exposure was actually filmed in Washington state - in Roslyn, WA. It's a great show, if you can find it.

Also, I'm not sure how well this fits the cozy feeling, but Leave No Trace has a wonderful, quiet sensibility you might enjoy.
posted by kristi at 12:13 PM on August 30, 2022

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