Beth O’Leary’s debut novel The Flatshare makes such a delightful read. At once like having a drink during a cringeworthy first date and sipping tea with a close friend, it hits all the marks of a comfort read. Tiffy makes a relatable and likable character as she steps from one unfortunate situation to a more awkward one as she lets go of an unhealthy long term relationship. I particularly enjoy how her friends stand by her and how they all give so generously not only to their friend group but their general community. Tiffy and Leon communicate mostly via sticky notes, and it builds the anticipation of their in person meeting so well. Plus, it gives time for them to develop their thoughts and background of each other, which invites the reader into reflection as well. They ease into a friendship and a safe space to work through some of their issues. It also brings to light emotional abuse and gaslighting ramifications, which makes room for readers to consider what makes a healthy relationship and to celebrate the growth from victim to victor. I want to be part of Tiffy’s friend group as another strong woman, and I look forward to O’Leary’s next book releasing soon.
AJ Finn, All We Ever Wanted, As Bright as Heaven, book recommendations, book review, books, Daisy Jones & The Six, Emily Giffin, female, historical fiction, How to Walk Away, Irene Hannon, Katherine Center, Lisa See, mystery/thriller, Pelican Point, reading, resiliency, spring, strong, Susan Meissner, Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Island of Sea Women, The Woman in the Window, women's fiction
As spring flowers bloom, we remember how they survive the cold, dark season to return and thrive again. We too need a reminder of our resilience. These books feature strong female characters who endure loss of family members, accidents that alter the body’s abilities, trauma, career obstacles, military occupation and more. Taking place during different time periods and in different areas, they offer a variety of people and places. Consider picking up one of these recent novels.
Katherine Center’s How to Walk Away introduces Margaret just as she graduates from her MBA program and gets engaged to her longtime boyfriend. Then her dreams literally crash as her new fiancé loses control of the plane and they land in flames. Margaret finds herself in the hospital without the use of her legs, the job she accepted and her fiancé. As heavy as this sounds, the strength she gains as she goes through physical therapy and adjusts her life to meet new goals shows such an admirable resiliency.
Lisa See’s latest novel The Island of Sea Women shares so much historical and cultural research through Young-sook’s life as a haenyeo on the Korean island Jeju. Continuing the tradition of the women in her family, Young-sook learns how to dive to earn a living so she can contribute to her family’s household and later her husband’s and children’s educations. Witnessing the dangers of the sea and the horrors of military occupation, she carries the weight of loss as she cares for her family. Most importantly, her lifelong relationship with her childhood best friend Mi-ja carries the themes of female friendship and forgiveness.
Emily Giffin’s All We Ever Wanted revolves around a privileged community in Nashville community and a couple families whose high school aged children end up at the center of an inappropriate photo scandal. Differences in age, gender and class come into play as each character protects their reputation and values. The mother of the boy who took the photo gives a nuanced look at the long term effects of such situations and serves as a catalyst for progress.
Taylor Jenkins Reid’s runaway spring sensation Daisy Jones & the Six flows as an interview that tells of the formation, fame and fade of a successful band in 1970s Los Angeles. Though it has the usual expected elements of rock n roll, it has an unexpected spine to its antics. Band leader Billy Dunne’s marriage exemplifies a relationship with a solid foundation and staying power. His wife Camilla and Daisy show the spectrum of struggle with maintaining a sense of self, purpose and connection when it comes to career and marriage.
Susan Meissner’s historical fiction novel As Bright as Heaven takes place during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. The Bright family moves to Philadelphia to join the family business at a funeral home. As war and flu threaten to tear families and communities apart, the three sisters learn how to survive and how to stay connected to each other. The ladies mature faster than normal due to their circumstances, but they still fulfill their dreams. Rich in history and familial themes, this story shows the depth and timelessness of strength.
Irene Hannon’s Pelican Point, the fourth installment in the Hope Harbor series, sweeps its characters right off the page in its small ocean town setting. Ben Garrison returns to Pelican Point to inherit a lighthouse that he intends to sell so he can move on with his life. He meets Marci, who wants to save the lighthouse, and tensions arise. As they get to know each other and their neighbors, they see healing happening as issues get brought to light. Ultimately, Marci shares her strength with those around her so they can all progress.
AJ Finn’s The Woman in the Window pays homage to Alfred Hitchcok films in his debut mystery/thriller. Anna Fox lives alone, and she doesn’t leave the house. Struggling with illness, her she connects to an online group where she offers support to others. She witnesses a murder at the house next door but no one believes what she saw. Anna’s story demonstrates strength in the face of fear and doubt.
I read The Girl Who Chased the Moon, my first Sarah Addison Allen novel, and it may have made a sweeter treat than my funfetti cake with pink icing (my birthday fell on a Wednesday). The setting came to life enough to make me wonder if I’d rather move to a small town like Mullaby, North Carolina or back to a big city. I felt summer’s warm air as Emily gazed at the mysterious light in the trees outside her window and longed for some quiet reflection of my own. Then I wanted to go to Julia’s bakery to chat with Mullaby’s finest as each character had their own charm, making me want to belong to a community like that. This enchanting story floated as smoothly as the lights danced across the yard in the middle of the night, and with its fun came some depth in its female leads and their discoveries about their families’ pasts. It certainly only began my love for Allen’s magical stories and neat women.
Fun Note: I got this book at a meetup and book swap some of the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club members, including our leader Anne Bogel, had in Nashville last summer.