Where Does The Book “Dumplin'” Take Place?

Readers can experience the small-town charm captured in West Texas inspired novel Dumplin’.

Image by lydiahephzibah via Instagram

One of my favorite extracurricular clubs during high school was our book club. Not only did I connect with other students through a shared hobby, but I could showcase my knowledge of the novels we read by participating on the competitive team. Each year, we would quiz each other over the most minute details from a list of books in hopes of placing in our district’s reading bowl.

In my sophomore year, I was assigned Dumplin’ and instantly wrote it off as a boring story about pageant girls. After reluctantly delving into the book, my expectations were completely turned on its head. The main character, Willowdean, was daring yet relatable, and the conflict kept me turning the page. Still, it was the authors rejection of stereotypical storytelling that cemented this novel fondly in my memories.

Julie Murphy’s fully fleshed out, full-figured heroine takes the pageant scene and the reader’s heart by storm and won’t let go until you say ‘bless your heart’. Readers can experience the small town that encapsulates Willowdean’s journey in the cities across Texas that inspired the author.

Dumplin' Julie Murphy
FACEBOOK Julie Murphy

Alpine, Texas, USA

The book follows the life of Willowdean Dickson, a high schooler in small town Clover City who is struggling to adapt to her changing life. After a particularly rough fight with her best friend, a tumultuous romantic life, and her mother’s constant criticisms about her weight; Willow decides to respond by competing in the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant. With new friends by her side, Willow seizes the opportunity define real beauty and reshape her own image.

The events of the book are canonical set in Clover City, a small, fictional town in West Texas, however, the author pulls from the culture of the region to mix southern charm and small-town life into one location that travelers can enjoy.

Alpine, Texas is a small town near the southwest border of the United States. Despite its size, there are plenty of activities for locals and visitors to enjoy. As a certified Music Friendly Community, the city prioritizes programs and events that support both the artists and the economy. Visitors searching for live music and a vibrant atmosphere can find both at Railroad Blues. The venue hosts fun events and energetic artists to keep patrons dancing the night away.

For visitors interested in learning about the sciences, the McDonald Observatory is a must-see. The astronomical research facility provides guided tours around the building through engaging exhibits about the celestial bodies that are studied on-site. The museum is located a few miles north of the city, so extra travel time should be budgeted for your visit.

Image by Austin Hervias via Unsplash

San Antonio, Texas, USA

Though Clover City resembles the small towns in West Texas, Julie Murphy also pulled some inspiration from one of the major cities she lived in as a young child. Visitors won’t get the small-town feeling in San Antonio, but there is much to learn and enjoy about the state through the locations and events around the city.

Celebrate history at the annual Fiesta San Antonio Festival. The festival is held to memorialize soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. Attendees can expect to enjoy parades, fairs, and shops as well.

Visitors looking for a slower approach to the big city can visit the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. The arboreal conservatory features stunning exhibits of lush greenery, entertaining events, and educational opportunities.

Dumplin' location
Image by Henry Becerra via Unsplash

Houston, Texas, USA

Due to her critical, pageant queen mother, Willowdean struggles with the self-doubt of being an unconventional pageant contestant. Through the adventures she embarks on in the novel, she learns to shed these inhibitions and embraces herself as she is.

Visitors can experience a taste of pageant culture in the bustling city of Houston. This is where The Miss Teen Texas and Miss Texas Teen USA pageants are held annually at the Hilton Houston Post Oak Hotel. Audiences can watch the contestants compete for the crown and explore the rest of the city after the curtain closes.

Jade Hargrove

Jade is a Georgia native who has enjoys trying new foods, podcasts, and long car rides with friends. She hopes to one day travel to every French-speaking country in the world to experience the different dialects and cultures that can be found around the world.

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