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April 21, 2022

2 Fantastic Books in Women's Fiction

by MK French

Women's fiction is one of the most popular genres. Their focus on strong, independent women who still struggle with life's ups and downs is something most people can relate to and find inspiration in their stories. If you are looking for something to read in this genre then definitely pick up these two books.

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I'll Be You by Janelle Brown

book cover of women's fiction novel I'll Be You
April 2022; Random House; 978-0525479185
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); women's fiction

Sam and Elli are identical twins whose parents couldn't always tell apart and had been B-list child actors. When their careers ended, Elli became the perfect housewife and Sam became addicted to pills and alcohol. The twins haven't spoken in years until Sam's father calls and tells her that Elli's husband left, they had adopted a two-year-old, and Elli stopped answering her phone after going to a spa. Is Elli headed for a breakdown or is this something more?

Janelle Brown writes about very complicated relationships between women, and this book is certainly no different. What could be more complicated than identical twins who used to pretend to be each other finally living very different lives? We start with Sam's POV, a year sober, and asked to look after Elli's daughter. As she recalls the shared past of acting in Hollywood and the start of her addiction, we get to see how different the twins are, for all of the minor physical differences they had. Things don't add up, however; Elli wasn't the type to go to a spa, she isn't responding to texts or calls, and a lot of personal documents had gone missing when Sam started looking for them. By the time Sam seriously starts looking for Elli, I was hooked.

The tropes of childhood stars burning out, twins being each other or having a secret language, and the willful disbelief in problems are all at play here. On top of that is the introduction of a cult that preys on wealthy dissatisfied women, purchasing individual or group sessions to achieve levels of enlightenment. The realization that was the problem is slow, but I do want to point this out for cult survivors or those sensitive to such predatory tactics. I was thoroughly invested in Sam's search and tortured love for her sister, and the feeling of emptiness without her. Finding Elli ultimately allows both of them to reclaim the selves they had become and forge a new path together. It's a fascinating story, and one I couldn't put down.

Buy I'll Be You at Amazon

The Dog Walkers by Michelle Davis

book cover of women's fiction novel The Dog Walkers
February 2022; Indie; 978-1734461947
ebook, print (312 pages); women's fiction

Ali Doyle had an uncharacteristic emotional meltdown at the office when she discovered her boyfriend had no intention of getting married. Rather than face him there, Ali feigned illness and isolated in her apartment. Over time, it became impossible for her to leave. Alleviating her loneliness, Ali watches dog walkers from her front window and creates backstories for these strangers and their pets. Concern for an elderly gentleman forces her out of her apartment, meeting several of the dog walkers, learning their real names and true identities. Through this process, she forms friendships, finds guidance, and finds herself again.

Ali spiraled fast after the breakup; she had imagined that David would propose during a vacation, but she'd ignored all the warning signs that said he wanted nothing more than the casual relationship they had. She was the one emotionally invested, and so she was devastated and fearful in the wake of breaking things off with him. In addition to the fear of seeing him again, she also realized she lost sight of herself during their relationship, letting him become the singular focus of her life outside of work. She had no other friends other than her boss, so it was easy for her to isolate and let days slide into each other. It's sad, really, how she could disappear from her own life, and Miles was the only one to notice. How many other people live life in this manner, without any real attachments with other people?

Ali needs connection with others besides Miles, and the stories she makes up are tender and nothing like what she had before. Out of concern for the missing person in the group of walkers, she ventures outside for the first time in weeks. We feel her fear and the hesitance in approaching the older ladies, the recrimination when her story comes out, and the care she has toward them and the other people she meets through the new dog. It's definitely true that regular interaction and walks can force people out into the open, and Ali only needed that push to get outside of herself and the endless worries in her head.

I like that the story is more about Ali coming to terms with herself and what she wants out of life first, then there's the new romance to counter the experience she had at the beginning of the book. Instead of subsuming everything about herself to please someone else, she relearned how to assert her own needs, to be confident, and how to be a friend. This allowed her to be open and communicate well, which is definitely part of a healthy relationship. I appreciated that about this book, as well as the way the natural flow of conversation began between Ali and Nate, as well as with the new friends she made, the coworkers she hadn't realized actually liked her, and with Miles, who was a mentor as well as boss. She had so many positive relationships she hadn't been able to see because she was so focused on what she thought was the "right" romantic relationship. Focusing on needs instead of what she thought she lost, Ali became a person who could help others as well as herself, and be a better person. I enjoyed seeing her grow and become the kind of person I'd love to be friends with in real life.

Buy The Dog Walkers at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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