Ladies Under Discussion

I think I described our current genre fairly well at the end of Beachy Keen Reads, so I think I’ll just quote myself! “[Women’s fiction] books explore the life of a female main character, focusing on their relationship with family, friends, and significant others. These books can be romantic, suspenseful, mysterious, or dark in tone but they must all feature a woman overcoming the odds and emerging triumphant!” Everyone took those ideas to heart, and so this is what we read:

Rosemary: The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway is a thought-provoking story of personal growth. Gal Garner is a high school biology teacher. She can be cranky and judgmental one moment and caring the next. Her life is precise and methodical, but she has good reason to require this in her life. Every second night she goes to the hospital for dialysis. Gal is waiting for word that a kidney is available for her. Her life devoted to teaching and growing roses becomes even more complicated when Riley, her 15-year-old niece, shows up at the high school and expects to live with her for an indefinite amount of time. Gal’s hold on life is so tenuous, how will she be able to help Riley?

Megan: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is the story of two young women in the Woman’s Auxiliary Air Force during World War II. The narrator has been captured by the Gestapo after her plane, piloted by her best friend Maddie, crashes in German occupied France. Verity is forced to reveal her mission or she will be put to death. This book is her confession and the story she tells is as much about her friendship with Maddie, as it is about codes, airplanes, and their role in the war. Despite the grim reality of war and harrowing details of interrogation methods, at its heart this book is about female friendship, strength and perseverance. Fans of historical fiction, and spy novels will not want to miss this book.

Carol: In Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, it’s 1946 and Claire Randall, an ex-combat nurse, is in the Scottish highlands along with her husband Frank, from whom she’s been estranged these last six years due to the war. Claire is alone sightseeing when she walks into a circle of ancient standing stones and is transported to 1743. Claire is immediately taken prisoner, first by British soldiers (including her husband’s sixth-times-great-grandfather, Jack Randall) and then by Scottish clansmen who believe she is British Spy. Getting herself home becomes a less important problem than surviving in the 18th century, and Claire clings to a kindly clansman named Jamie Fraser, whose life Claire saves with her medical knowledge. Soon, though, the clan decides that if Claire is no spy, she must marry this Jamie, who has secrets and troubles of his own. Gabaldon’s fabulous and original series starter is hard to classify. Part fantasy, romance, and historical fiction, what made this a women’s fiction title for this reader was the struggle Claire, an independent modern woman, faces while attempting to live back in time.

Emma: My Antonia by Willa Cather is the story of orphaned Jim Burden who travels from Virginia to rural Black Hawk, Nebraska to live with his grandparents. On the same train an immigrant Bohemian family is also traveling to Black Hawk. Antonia Shimerda and Jim become close friends and Jim helps Antonia learn English. The Shimerda family doesn’t thrive in their new home and depressed Mr. Shimerda commits suicide. Antonia helps with the farming until moving to town to work as a servant. Jim and his grandparents move to Black Hawk so Jim can continue going to school. Later Jim continues his education in Lincoln and then at Harvard. Antonia stays in Black Hawk, becomes pregnant, is deserted by her fiancée in Denver, and returns home to work the farm. Twenty years later Jim returns to Nebraska and finds Antonia married, content, and the proud mother of several children. This is a moving story of a strong woman who faces tragedies and joys with grace.

Ann: The Butterfly’s Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe is a wonderful novel about grandmothers, mothers and daughters, tradition, and family- with lots of monarch butterfly lore. Luz Avila’s grandmother buys an old VW bug and announces to Luz that they are going to make the drive from Wisconsin to San Antonio and on to Mexico to acquaint Luz with her relatives and follow the monarch butterfly’s migration. Luz’s abuela (grandmother) raises butterflies and even named Luz’s mother Mariposa (meaning butterfly). Luz thinks Abuela’s idea is crazy, but the next morning Luz finds Abuela has died in her sleep. After thinking things through Luz decides she will make the journey her grandmother wanted to take together, and she will take Abuela’s ashes back to the family home in Mexico. Luz’s boyfriend Sully discourages her from going alone, but she insists. This is the story of Luz’s journey and the road bumps and surprises she encounters along the way.

Dori: In The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar, an invitation from America reunites a group of close college friends. Armaiti is dying and, nostalgic for her youth in Bombay, asks Laleh, Kavita and Nishta to one final gathering. Her three friends all seem to be at a crossroads: Laleh, happily married to her college sweetheart, feels guilty about her wealth and success, while Kavita is coming to terms with her sexuality. Furthest afield is Nishta, married to a conservative, controlling Muslim man. Will she be able to free herself and, if so, will she return to her marriage? Umrigar’s novel is a thoughtful look at friendship, love, religious differences and youthful idealism, painting a complex portrait of modern India.

Julie: In Bed Rest by Sarah Bilston we have a character who thinks she has it all figured out: career, marriage and pregnant before turning thirty. When problems force her into bed rest on her couch, she finds the perspective from there very different.

Stacey: Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski combines some of my favorite things: pop culture references, organizing, and a satisfying ending. Lucy Bloom is a professional organizer and is hired to help a reluctant recluse declutter her home. As Lucy begins to push the homeowner to let go of physical objects, both Lucy and her client find the emotional clutter in their own lives to be the worst clutter of all. Told with heart, and a sense of humor, this book will offer readers plenty to think about and discuss.

Next up? We’ll be appreciating the fine artwork offered up in the genre of Graphic Novels! A graphic novel is a story told primarily with pictures, but will include words as well. From the funny to the serious, graphic novels are worth a look! (Tee hee!)

— Stacey


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