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May 13, 2021

2 New Books about Female Friendship

by Susan Roberts

Perfect summer reading

In the past I didn't like books with the world GIRL in the title - I felt that it made the women in the story to be more girl than woman.  After reading several of these books, I've changed my mind and see the word GIRL from another viewpoint - "Like it or not, but Girl in the title has come to mean nuanced, multifaceted, and true-to-life woman. Sugar and spice optional." (Readers Digest)

Here are reviews of two recently published books with the word GIRL in the title.

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The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman

The Clover Girls
May 2021; Graydon House; 978-1525811524
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); women's fiction
"This time at Birchwod has reminded me that family is comprised of more than those who are related by blood  Family should consist of those who know you inside and out...Friends,  Friends are family."
(loc 2545)

Best Friends. Forever?

I picked up my first Viola Shipman book because it was about Michigan.  I grew up there and have fond memories of spending summers at Lake Michigan.  Now after reading all of his books, I can tell you without a doubt that he is a fantastic writer who always tells a story that will tug at your heart and leave you feeling good about life.  He is one of those few authors whose books I will buy without even knowing what the book is about because I KNOW that it will be fantastic.

The Clover Girls has a dual timeline from the summer of 1985 and the summer of 2021. Elizabeth, Veronica, Rachel, and Emily met at Camp Birchwood in 1985, and the four summers that they were at camp - they were The Clover Girls and they were inseparable. Their motto was Friends For-EVER and they were trendsetters as campers and later as camp counselors. Their last summer pulled them apart and they haven't talked to each other for years.  They are all in their 40s now and wondering where their lives have gone when they each get a letter from Emily. She asks her old best friends to go to Camp Birchwood together one more time to see if they can regain the love and trust that they had in each other when they were younger.  Will they be able to reconnect over their past or have they all changed so much and held so many grudges against each other that they will be unable to become friends again?

I LOVED this book.  It made me laugh and it made me cry.  Most importantly it brought back long-forgotten memories of spending long summer days with my friends when I was a kid.  The clover girls are so well written that they felt like friends from my past.  Not only is this a book about friendship but it's also a book about how women look at themselves and how important it is to gain back the power that they once had.  This is going be THE book of the summer of 2021.  You don't want to miss it!

Buy The Clover Girls at Amazon

The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian 

The Girls in the Stilt House
April 2021; Sourcebooks Landmark; 978-1728245751
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); southern fiction
"Ada smelled to swamp before she reached it.  The mingling of sulfur rot worked with memory to knot her stomach and burn the back of her throat...When she was a little girl, she had believed she loved this place, the trees offering themselves as steadfast companions, the wildflowers worthy confidants, but passing through now with eyes that had taken in other wonders and a heart that had allowed an outsider to slip in, she knew she had only been resigned to it.  As she was again."
(p 7)

As a reader, my favorite genres are Southern fiction and historical fiction -- The Girls in the Stilt house is a win/win because it falls into both genres...plus it's a fantastic debut from a new author. The story flows so well and the setting is so real, that it is almost difficult to believe that this is a debut. Some parts of this book were difficult to read especially the racism that existed in Mississippi in the 1920s and the hardships that the poor had to live in were both difficult to read but they were also very accurate.

This novel had three main characters:

  • Ada grew up in the swamp. Her mother died when she was young, her father is a mean and vicious man who makes his living as a trapper and is even nastier when he's drunk. Ada ran away from home to live with a man who ended up breaking her heart. She had no choice but to return to her father's house. She didn't realize that she was pregnant until her father discovered it. She has to learn to depend on other people to help her.
  • Matilda is a sharecropper's daughter. Unlike Ada, she has a wonderful but very poor family. Her parents work hard in hopes of someday buying their own land to farm and she tries to protect them from some of the racist local people. Her father also helps to distribute moonshine from the local bootlegger even though it could put him in a lot of trouble, he feels like it adds more money to the hopes of the family dream. Matilda is outspoken and has a dream of moving north to Ohio and getting away from the cruel people who work to keep her in her place.
  • The third main character that makes this book so wonderful is not a person - instead, it's the setting of the Natchez Trace. The swamp is described so well that you feel like you are there with Ada and Matilda. The novel is made even better by using this setting to the point that it become one of the major parts of the story. The swamp is both beautiful and threatening to the people who live there. Will Ada and Matilda ever get their dreams fulfilled as they fight together or will their lives remain in the dark, dismal swamp?

For me, this book had it all - strong female friendships, a bit of a mystery, and the fact that a family isn't necessarily the people that you share blood with - the strongest family is made up of the people you love and care about.



Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. Since her travel plans had to be canceled for this year, she is starting to make plans for travel in 2021. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.


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