The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

The Boston Girl, by Anita Diamant, came up as a recommendation on one of my many booklover sites (I believe it was librarything.com but it could have been goodreads.com). I read The Red Tent a year or two ago and found it gripping and heart-wrenching, so I approached The Boston Girl, by the same author, Anita Diamant, with caution. I thought it was likely that I would love the book but I was afraid of the commitment. Am I the only one who has that problem sometimes? The struggle is real.

Anyways, I buckled down and read The Boston Girl, and it was just as enticing and upsetting as I expected. Addie Baum is an elderly woman dictating the story of her life growing up in Boston to her granddaughter. The third daughter of Jewish immigrants in the early 1900s, her path was a rocky one, but full of sweet memories, love and good friends.

The Boston Girl addresses the struggle of immigrant families, the nuances of growing up Jewish during a tumultuous time, the difficult relationships between mothers and daughters and sisters, the shocking introduction of men and dating for a very naïve young woman, and the pain of loss followed by the warmth of togetherness shared by kindred spirits. If you love books that deal with women’s issues and focus on the feminine, The Boston Girl is a wonderful example…If you think you can handle it. And if you have a box of Kleenex by your bedside. The Boston Girl is not a fun summer vacation read, and not light reading by any standard…But I loved it. And some of you might love it, too.

The Invisibles by Cecilia Galante

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Nora, Ozzie, Monica, and Grace were four teenage girls who met when their home lives fell apart and they found themselves at the Turning Winds Home for Girls. They found comfort in one another and learned many powerful lessons about life and love and friendship, but when they were old enough to be on their own, the four young women went off on their separate paths.

Now they are grown women, and Grace is in trouble. She needs her friends again. The four women come together again and learn that you’re never too old to need a friend…And maybe they can all learn something from one another again, before it’s too late for all of them to remember who they really are, and where they came from.

The Invisibles, by Cecilia Galante, is a novel about growing up, and about female relationships in all their complexity. If you like women’s fiction, The Invisibles will pull your heartstrings and maybe even make you pull out the Kleenex box. If you’re looking for your next cry, The Invisibles is for you.

 

Stella Bain, by Anita Shreve

 

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A woman is found wandering, lost, confused and ill during World War I. A kind and generous couple takes her into their home and nurses her back to health, realizing with time that the self-named Stella Bain actually has no idea who she is, and has no place to go. The couple observes only that she has been serving in the war, based on her uniform, and that she has an American accent.

Stella must overcome her amnesia and get her life back-but how long will it take? Does she have family and friends who are worrying about her? Why can’t she push away the nagging guilt that arises whenever she tries to remember who she is? What if she doesn’t want to know the truth about her past?

Suddenly, it all comes back to Stella, and she must decide what to do with the rest of her life and rediscover who the real woman inside her wants to be.

Stella Bain is very historical fiction/women’s fiction in genre. The tone is very serious and rich in description and sentiment. I found it to be an excellent audiobook to hear at work- but I also have a special weakness for historical fiction set during the Great War-I just think it was a great time for women to start showing the world what they were made of, don’t you?!

 

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel

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America’s first astronauts are a proud part of our history as a country. These men tested experimental equipment, were launched on death-defying missions, and risked their lives nearly every day they went to work. The media couldn’t get enough of these heroic icons, representing the progress of the U.S. in science and technology. Unfortunately, while the media was having a heyday over these men and the accomplishments of NASA, they were also fascinated by the women who stood by these remarkable men–the Astronaut wives. These women married risk-taking, proud, ambitious men, but they never dreamed that they would one day be on the cover of Life magazine, interviewing with journalists about what it was like to have your husband shot into space.

This true account (non-fiction) of the Astronaut Wives’ Club outlines the politics of the time, the technological advancements and disasters that lead to finally landing on the moon, orbiting the country, and more. Anyone interested in American history and the fascinating women who could wait in a suburban home for an astronaut to come home for dinner each day–and the remarkable things they did themselves, without getting much credit for their strength of character and bravery themselves.

Fully recommend this read to anyone who likes non-fiction, especially regarding women’s issues and the changing politics in history regarding the role of the female. Top marks! And if you like to listen to your non-fiction via audiobook, Hachette Audio has made The Astronaut’s Wives Club into an audiobook that is impeccably narrated and a great option.

 

 

The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey

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Kate has finally escaped from her miserable life and found the man of her dreams (on the internet, of course), and after a passionate courting, she finds herself married and moving to Iowa to be the lady of his farmhouse. Except when she arrives, she has a rude awakening. Her new husband Joe wasn’t as forthcoming about his living situation as she would have desired. Her marriage is off to a very rocky start, people keep insinuating that her home is haunted, and she is about to learn that the wives of Braxton County face struggles that she never could have imagined, going back generation after generation.

Can Kate solve the mystery of the farmhouse and the murder that once occurred within its walls? Will she face the same fate as the previous owners? Is the family cursed? Can she find her place in Braxton County, or will she be defeated? What secrets are locked away, just out of Kate’s reach?

The Widows of Braxton County, by Jess McConkey, is a novel about old family secrets, the trials of marriage and the complicated relationships between women, and asks a very serious question : Is it possible for a man to avoid becoming his own father, in the end?

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

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Dinah is the daughter of the Biblical Jacob, his only daughter in a passel of 13 children by 4 different wives. She is briefly mentioned in the Bible, part of a story about a young lady who falls in love with a a nobleman and falls into his bed before they are married, and whose father and brothers did something horrible in retaliation of her lost honor. The story of Dinah starts when she is a young girl, and ends when she is an old woman, and shares what it would have been like for a woman in biblical times, when women were treated like a commodity, traded and negotiated for like livestock, and expected to be fruitful with healthy sons.

Surprisingly, however, this novel is empowering for women. Despite the conditions, these women were strong and worked together with unbelievable loyalty and solidarity. The wives had unbreakable bonds, and the Red Tent, where a woman was expected to pass her monthly courses, became a place where a woman could just be a woman among friends. Plans were made, advice was passed around, compassion was doled out. Possibly the most important lesson of this novel is that the relationships between women are remarkable, beautiful and unbreakable.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this novel, but I heard it was really good and I have always been interested in biblical mythology and history. I was blown away by the strength of the women, through everything they were subjected to in the course of their lives. The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant,  is a must-read. I promise.

All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue

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Three  women grew up together spending summers on the Jersey Shore and went their separate ways upon adulthood. Kate moved to Philadelphia and became a very serious lawyer, Dani moved to San Francisco and is still thinking someday she will write a novel, but in the meantime she can’t seem to hold a job, and Vanessa is a very active stay-at-home mother in New York City. When they decide to come together at the beach for a stay that will bring the secrets of the past out into the open, challenging their friendships and perceptions of their own lives, and forcing them to decide whether they will move forward or hold onto the events of the past, letting it weigh them down.

All the Summer Girls, by Meg Donohue, is a good beach read and a good example of chicklit. There is some sadness and heartbreak, but the ending is satisfying. Meg Donohue also wrote How to Eat a Cupcake, which a was another great chicklit pick.