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June 27, 2021

4 New & Notable Books in Women's Fiction

by Susan Roberts

Women's fiction

Women's Fiction is an umbrella term for several different sub-genres.  Today I have reviews of several books that will make you cry and one that will definitely make you laugh.  What they all have in common is that the main characters are strong women with challenges to overcome.

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Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard 

Count the Ways
July 2021; William Morrow;  978-0062398277
audio, ebook, print (464 pages); women's fiction
" I love our family...Our family.  She spoke as if the five of them, together,  constituted some whole entity, like a county or a planet." (p11)

This was an emotional family saga focused on Eleanor, the mother, as her family faces love, tragedy, and most of all change.  This book will tug at your heart to the point that the reader feels like they are part of the family as it changes over the years.

As the novel begins, Eleanor is at her son's wedding at the farm she bought long ago.  After the prologue at the wedding, we begin to learn more about Eleanor.  She was an only child whose parents weren't as interested in her as much as they were in each other and alcohol.  When they died in a car accident, she was truly alone in the world.  She was an illustrator who had written several children's books in college and when she got her first check for her books, she started looking for a home.  She found a farm in New Hampshire, fell in love with Cam, a local wood artist and they had three children together.  Because of the childhood that she had, she worked hard to make her family happy.  Her two daughters and one son loved their family and loved the adventures that they had as a family.  A few years later, a tragedy happens that injuries their youngest child.  Eleanor blames Cam, who was supposed to be watching him, and the dynamics of the family change completely.  Instead of the idyllic life of ball games, family cookouts, and winter fun, their lives are now filled with silence along with bitter words for each other.  As the marriage crumbles, the family also becomes fractured.  Over the years, as Eleanor tries to repair the distance, her estrangement with her children gets even worse.  Eleanor herself is broken - she has gone from her perfect life with her husband and children to living by herself.  We feel so much of her pain and heartache that I had to put the book down several times to shed a few tears.  Will the family ever come together again and all of the past hurts be forgotten?

I loved Eleanor as the main character.  Her goal was to turn her life around - to go from a sad and lonely childhood to a home filled with family and love.  She wasn't perfect by any means and her brokenness is a major part of the story of her family.  She worked so hard to keep her family happy that when it all ended, she was no longer sure of her purpose in life.

One of the other things that I enjoyed was the mention of things that were going on in the world and how they affected the family - the Challenger explosion,  the early computers, and lots of music from famous bands were all part of the story.

This beautiful novel reminds us all how quickly life can change and how people deal with tragedy.  It's full of joy and sorrow, love and loss but most important is the love that a mother feels for her children.  This is a long book but it's worth every page and I was sad when it ended.  This is my first book by this author and it certainly won't be my last

Buy Count the Ways at Amazon

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin

The One Hundred Years of Lennis and Margot
June 2021; Harper; 978-0063092761
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); women's fiction
‘Between us,’ I said quietly, ‘we're a hundred years old.’

This is a wonderful and emotional story about two women who become friends near the end of their lives.  The two main characters are wonderful - 17-year-old Lenni and 83-year-old Margot will be characters that you won't soon forget.  They'll make you laugh and they'll make you cry but most of all, they will make you think about life and friendship.

Lenni is a long-term patient at a hospital in Glasgow.  She is at the end of her short life of 17 years.  She's quirky and brave and outspoken. She wants to do as much living as she can during her final days.  When a new art program is started at the hospital, she asks to be in the group of elderly patients and she immediately bonds with Margo.  Margo is 83 and in the hospital to have an operation on her heart.  Lenni decides and Margo quickly agrees that their combined age is 100 and that they should do 100 paintings that depict things the happened in their lives.  Through Lenni's paintings, we learn about her childhood, her absent mother, and her father who couldn't bear to be near her as she was dying.  Through Margo's paintings, we find out about her early marriage, her long-term friendship, and her love of the stars that she learned from her late husband.
As they share their stories, their friendship with each other grows until they totally depend on each other.
They become more of a family than either of them have ever had and as Lenni's life is dwindling away, Margot is the person that she depends on most.

Yes, it's sad to read a book about someone dying who hasn't really had a chance to live but this book is so much more.  It's about love and friendship, grief and joy, death and spiritual awakening.  You will probably shed some tears when you read this book but in the end, you'll remember Lenni and Margot for the way they lived their lives and the wonderful friendship that they shared. 


Haven Point by Virginia Hume

Haven Point
June 2021; St. Martin's; 978-1250266521
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); women's fiction
Over seven decades of a changing America, through wars and storms, betrayals and reconciliations, Virginia Hume's Haven Point explores what it means to belong to a place, and to a family, which holds as tightly to its traditions as it does its secrets
 
Haven Point is a multi-generation family saga that covers over 70 years of life, strife, and dying in the Demarest family mostly centered around their family home in Haven Point, Maine.  When I first saw the cover, I thought that this would be a quick read beach book.  Was I ever wrong!  This book had the beautiful beaches in Maine but it also had fantastic characters and a storyline that covered three main times in the family and is told from the viewpoints of two of the main characters.

1944 - Maren is a cadet nurse working at Walter Reed hospital in Washington DC.  She wanted to do her best to help the war effort and she was thrilled to get away from her family farm.   When she meets Dr. Oliver Demarest, there is an immediate spark between them.  Even though it's wartime and they are both overly busy at their jobs, they marry very quickly.  When he takes her to his family home in Maine after the wedding, she realizes that he comes from a family of wealth who is respected in their corner of the world.  Maren has trouble making friends because the families in Haven Point don't trust outsiders - actually, they are a really snobby group of people.

1970 - Life is difficult between their daughter, Annie, and her father.    They have different views of life and are on opposite sides of everything.  When Annie falls in with the wrong crowd, her parents insist that she quit hanging out with them.  After a terrible tragedy happens, Annie leaves Haven Point and vows to never return.

2008 - Annie has come to her grandmother's house in Haven Point to scatter her mother's ashes.  Because her mother had poisoned her views of the family home and the people in the town,  Annie also views everyone as being snobbish.  Maren has to finally decide whether to tell Annie what happened in 1970 and why her mother left in anger.

For me, this family saga had it all -- wonderfully written characters, the timelines that told the family stories, and the beautiful scenery in Maine.    This is a debut novel for the author and I look forward to her future novels.

Buy Haven Point at Amazon

The Seven Day Switch by Kelly Harms

The Seven Day Switch
July 2021; Lake Union; 978-1542028899
audio. ebook. print (320 pages); magical realism
Two moms as opposite as a Happy Meal and a quinoa bowl. What a difference a week makes in a heartfelt, laugh-out-loud novel.

"Guilt, annoyance and that awful sensation of a never-repayable debt rise up in me.  Celeste is a special kind of stay-at-home mom.  A woman who plays her leisure against the rest of us at every turn, and all we can do is thank her for it.  And here she is now, winning another battle without even trying.  And never missing a chance to let the rest of us feel like losers" (loc 457)

This is a laugh-out-loud novel about the contrasts between working moms and stay-at-home moms and the animosity that often exists between them.  Celeste and Wendy live in an upscale community.  The only connection between them is that their daughters are best friends.  Celeste is a stay-at-home mom who cooks every day, makes sure her family eats healthy, keeps screen time to a minimum for the kids, and is just an all-around earth mother kind of woman.  She is new to the community and trying to fit in but there is no love lost between her and Wendy.  Wendy owns her own company and it takes up more hours than there are in a day.  Her kids often get take out for dinner and even though she tries to be there for them, she often misses out.  They each prefer their style of living and look down on the lifestyle of the other.  Celeste thinks that Wendy doesn't spend enough time with her kids and Wendy thinks that Celeste doesn't do much since she stays at home.  This animosity takes a rapid shift when they wake up one morning in the other woman's body.  The following days are filled with a struggle to fill the role of a person totally different from them and finding out what really goes on behind closed doors.  This story will make you laugh and maybe shed a few tears and it's a fantastic story that proves that you shouldn't judge someone until you walk in their shoes!   This is going to be a definite summer hit!

Buy The Seven Day Switch at Amazon

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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