After watching Barbie, we’ve been feeling the need to read more stories focused around women at the center—and in control—of their own narratives. And, in these love letters to ladies, you’ll feel like you’re right there with them—through the good times and bad—as they navigate the complexities and joys of womanhood at every season of life.
Loan’s Pick: For the longest time, I didn’t see Vietnamese American women like me in fiction. We were background characters, dead bodies, docile servants, fetishized fantasies, or suffering individuals traumatized by constant war. I always thought, There’s so much more to our lives. There’s so much to celebrate. Vietnamese women are joyful, loud, stubborn, angry, funny, loving. We are everything. Carolyn Huynh’s bighearted debut, THE FORTUNES OF JADED WOMEN, is absolute proof. It follows three Vietnamese sisters’ disparate lives, which intersect after a powerful psychic makes a startling prediction about their family’s fate and happiness. Layered with laugh-out-loud humor, some heartbreak, and healing, this vibrant novel is a life-affirming love letter to women everywhere.
For fans of Jonathan Tropper, KJ Dell’Antonia, and Kevin Kwan, this “sharp, smart, and gloriously extra” (Nancy Jooyoun Kim, The Last Story of Mina Lee) debut follows a family of estranged Vietnamese women—cursed to never know love or happiness—as they reunite when a psychic makes a startling prediction.
Everyone in Orange County’s Little Saigon knew that the Duong sisters were cursed.
It started with their ancestor, Oanh, who dared to leave her marriage for true love—so a fearsome Vietnamese witch cursed Oanh and her descendants so that they would never find love or happiness, and the Duong women would give birth to daughters, never sons.
Oanh’s current descendant Mai Nguyen knows this curse well. She’s divorced, and after an explosive disagreement a decade ago, she’s estranged from her younger sisters, Minh Pham (the middle and the mediator) and Khuyen Lam (the youngest who swears she just runs humble coffee shops and nail salons, not Little Saigon’s underground). Though Mai’s three adult daughters, Priscilla, Thuy, and Thao, are successful in their careers (one of them is John Cho’s dermatologist!), the same can’t be said for their love lives. Mai is convinced they might drive her to an early grave.
Desperate for guidance, she consults Auntie Hua, her trusted psychic in Hawaii, who delivers an unexpected prediction: this year, her family will witness a marriage, a funeral, and the birth of a son. This prophecy will reunite estranged mothers, daughters, aunts, and cousins—for better or for worse.
A multi-narrative novel brimming with levity and candor, The Fortunes of Jaded Women is about mourning, meddling, celebrating, and healing together as a family. It shows how Vietnamese women emerge victorious, even if the world is against them.
Sabrina’s Pick: If you want to appreciate the beautifully flawed soul of a woman, the Practical Magic series by Alice Hoffman is the perfect place to start. From innocent youth to seasoned grande dame, the Owens women are a prime example of the power of matriarchal lineage, as well as that of a woman scorned. As each woman grapples with their ancestor Maria’s curse in her own way, we see conflicts overcome by familial bonds and pure strength of character. Each one must determine if experiencing the bliss of true love is worth the pain of inevitable heartbreak—but isn’t that ultimately true for any woman? The characters (including Sally and Gillian, Jet and Franny) embark on unique paths of self-discovery, learning to embrace the generational magic that lies within them and find their true authentic selves. The stories are mesmerizing, inspiring, and wholly relatable for women of all ages.
In this “ bewitching” (The New York Times Book Review) novel that traces a centuries-old curse to its source, beloved author Alice Hoffman unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic.
Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Nameless Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.
When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.
Magic Lessons is a “heartbreaking and heart-healing” (BookPage) celebration of life and love and a showcase of Alice Hoffman’s masterful storytelling.
Molly’s Pick: Alice Elliott Dark’s FELLOWSHIP POINT is a 600-page love letter to women, masterfully capturing the beauty and complexity of female friendship. It follows Agnes Lee, a celebrated children’s author who is intent on protecting her legacy and that of Fellowship Point, a majestic peninsula in coastal Maine. To protect Fellowship Point, Agnes aims to donate the land to a trust. But doing so requires convincing her fellow shareholders, including her best friend, Polly Wister, to dissolve their generations-old partnership. It’s an epic novel that examines women’s lives with warmth and care, and delves into one of the most intimate relationships a woman can have. This novel particularly spoke to me, as my own best friend and I have been attached at the hip since infancy. While our lives look quite different on the surface, the same way that Agnes’s and Polly’s do, we are intricately intertwined. I’ve never read a book that honors this type of best friendship so honestly. It’s an ambitious achievement that makes for a satisfying read.
The masterful story of a lifelong friendship between two very different women with shared histories and buried secrets, tested in the twilight of their lives, set across the arc of the 20th century.
Celebrated children’s book author Agnes Lee is determined to secure her legacy—to complete what she knows will be the final volume of her pseudonymously written Franklin Square novels; and even more consuming, to permanently protect the peninsula of majestic coast in Maine known as Fellowship Point. To donate the land to a trust, Agnes must convince shareholders to dissolve a generations-old partnership. And one of those shareholders is her best friend, Polly.
Polly Wister has led a different kind of life than Agnes: that of a well-off married woman with children, defined by her devotion to her husband, and philosophy professor with an inflated sense of stature. She exalts in creating beauty and harmony in her home, in her friendships, and in her family. Polly soon finds her loyalties torn between the wishes of her best friend and the wishes of her three sons—but what is it that Polly wants herself?
Agnes’s designs are further muddied when an enterprising young book editor named Maud Silver sets out to convince Agnes to write her memoirs. Agnes’s resistance cannot prevent long-buried memories and secrets from coming to light with far-reaching repercussions for all.
Fellowship Point reads like a classic 19th-century novel in its beautifully woven, multilayered narrative, but it is entirely contemporary in the themes it explores; a deep and empathic interest in women’s lives, the class differences that divided us, the struggle to protect the natural world, and, above all, a reckoning with intimacy, history, and posterity. It is a masterwork from Alice Elliott Dark.
Emily’s Pick: Gloria Naylor’s classic, THE WOMEN OF BREWSTER PLACE, takes place in an unnamed central section of an urban city that’s in disrepair, spanning the 1940s through the mid-1970s. In the novel’s chapters, we dive into the perspectives of seven Black women. We learn what brought them to Brewster Place, what obstacles they face in their neighborhood that both harms them and provides sanctuary, and what their hopes are for the future. Each woman is so fully depicted that the book almost reads as seven novels in one—and that’s what I think makes this a love story to women—all seven protagonists carry “main character energy” the whole way through.
Gloria Naylor’s debut novel, which won the American Book Award and the National Book Award for first novel, tells the overlapping stories of 7 women living in Brewster Place, a bleak inner-city sanctuary. THE WOMEN OF BREWSTER PLACE is a powerful, moving portrait of the strengths, struggles, and hopes of black women in America.
Jade’s Pick: Jamie Ford's THE MANY DAUGHTERS OF AFONG MOY took my breath away. To experience the lives of seven generations of women—beginning with Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to arrive in America—is simply an honor and one that I'll hold on to. In this masterfully told story that explores epigenetics, trauma, and perseverance, Afong’s descendants reckon with the memories of their ancestors. Not only did I take away so much from Afong's solitary life and the obstacles she faced, along with the lives of her descendants, but their experiences also opened my eyes to so much about myself and my family in the process. Everyone needs to read this book.
The New York Times bestselling author of the “mesmerizing and evocative” (Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants) Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet returns with a powerful exploration of the love that binds one family across the generations.
Dorothy Moy breaks her own heart for a living.
As Washington’s former poet laureate, that’s how she describes channeling her dissociative episodes and mental health struggles into her art. But when her five-year-old daughter exhibits similar behavior and begins remembering things from the lives of their ancestors, Dorothy believes the past has truly come to haunt her. Fearing that her child is predestined to endure the same debilitating depression that has marked her own life, Dorothy seeks radical help.
Through an experimental treatment designed to mitigate inherited trauma, Dorothy intimately connects with past generations of women in her family: Faye Moy, a nurse in China serving with the Flying Tigers; Zoe Moy, a student in England at a famous school with no rules; Lai King Moy, a girl quarantined in San Francisco during a plague epidemic; Greta Moy, a tech executive with a unique dating app; and Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to set foot in America.
As painful recollections affect her present life, Dorothy discovers that trauma isn’t the only thing she’s inherited. A stranger is searching for her in each time period. A stranger who’s loved her through all of her genetic memories. Dorothy endeavors to break the cycle of pain and abandonment, to finally find peace for her daughter, and gain the love that has long been waiting, knowing she may pay the ultimate price.
Kaitlin’s Pick: What these women have in common is a defining moment of crisis, and how each woman reacts will have lasting consequences on their families and careers. With separate storylines spread across three continents, this is a truly global novel and a reminder of what connects us all in difficult times. It’s a true love letter to women in that way.
Emily’s Pick: You’d think that a World War II–era advice column at a magazine called Woman’s Friend would offer wisdom and counseling for every woman left on the home front in London. But not with Henrietta Bird running the show. She cherry-picks the sweet correspondence and ignores any letters of the more unpleasant (read: forlorn and desperate) sort. When Emmeline Lake gets assigned as Mrs. Bird’s legal secretary, she’s forced to leave women’s pleas for help unanswered. At least, that’s what Mrs. Bird thinks. Emmy secretly writes back to the women Mrs. Bird ignored and, when she does, this charming story takes a turn into an evaluation of how ordinary acts of kindness and friendship can make a huge difference in a world upended by war.
Katya’s Pick: This stunning work of journalism is an absolute page-turner that documents the experiences of three women—Lina, Maggie, and Sloane—as they come to understand their female desire and sexuality. In some ways, these stories are very different: Maggie sits through court hearings after having an intimate relationship with her high school teacher; Sloane makes love with men and women as her husband eagerly watches; and Lina strikes up an extramarital affair. But I quickly found that these women share many more commonalities than differences, particularly when it comes to desire, shame, and intimacy. Women everywhere will find a piece of themselves in these stories that deliver validation and remind us of our astounding courage.
The instant #1 New York Times bestseller and one of the most talked-about books of the year, Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women is “the most in-depth look at the female sex drive that’s been published in decades” (New York) and a “groundbreaking...breathtaking…staggeringly intimate” (Entertainment Weekly) look at the sex lives of three real American women—based on nearly a decade of reporting.
Hailed as “a dazzling achievement” (Los Angeles Times) and “riveting page-turner that explores desire, heartbreak, and infatuation in all its messy, complicated nuance” (The Washington Post), Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women has captivated readers, booksellers, and critics—and topped bestseller lists—worldwide.
Declared “the best book of the year” by Elizabeth Gilbert and “a breathtaking and important book” by Cheryl Strayed, Three Women has won praise everywhere from Columbia Journalism Review (“deeply reported, elegantly written, almost uncomfortably intimate”) to Refinery29 (“the hype for Three Women is real; in fact, it’s insufficient”), from Esquire (“a heartbreaking, gripping, astonishing masterpiece”) to Time (“Three Women is a battle cry…For anyone who thinks they know what women want, this book is an alarm, and its volume is turned all the way up.”) In the words of The New Statesman, “This is an unusual, startling, and gripping debut. It feels to me like the kind of bold, timely, once-in-a-generation book that every house should have a copy of, and probably will before too long.”
In suburban Indiana we meet Lina, the homemaker and mother of two whose marriage, after a decade, has lost its passion. Starved for affection, Lina battles daily panic attacks and, after reconnecting with an old flame through social media, embarks on an affair that quickly becomes all-consuming. In North Dakota we meet Maggie, the seventeen-year-old high school student who allegedly has a clandestine physical relationship with her handsome, married English teacher; the ensuing criminal trial will turn their quiet community upside down. Finally, in the northeast we meet Sloane, the successful, refined restaurant owner whose husband enjoys watching her have sex with other men and women.
Based on years of immersive reporting and told with astonishing frankness and immediacy, Three Women is both a feat of journalism and a triumph of storytelling, brimming with nuance and empathy. “A work of deep observation, long conversations, and a kind of journalistic alchemy” (Kate Tuttle, NPR), Three Women introduces us to three unforgettable women—and one remarkable writer—whose experiences remind us that we are not alone.
Juliet's Pick #1: LADY TAN'S CIRCLE OF WOMEN is a compelling read that swept me into the heart of 15th-century China, highlighting the nuances of female friendship, ambition, and the transformative power of knowledge. The book is a vivid reimagination of the life of Lady Tan Yunxian, a trailblazing female physician in a society that sought to stifle her talents and confine her to traditional gender roles. Yunxian's resilience against these odds, fueled by her friendship with Meiling and her own unyielding desire to serve other women, became an anthem of female empowerment to me. I was deeply moved by her determination to challenge patriarchal norms and defy Confucian teachings that deem an educated woman "worthless."
This book is an eloquent tribute to the unique power women have in lifting each other up, highlighting the idea that from mutual support, even in a restricting society, women can create a "circle" that is not just socially empowering but also emotionally enriching. It's a powerful reminder that sisterhood can be a potent force in breaking chains and remolding traditions, and it felt as relevant today as it would have been centuries ago.
The latest historical novel from New York Times bestselling author Lisa See, inspired by the true story of a woman physician from 15th-century China—perfect for fans of See’s classic Snowflower and the Secret Fan and The Island of Sea Women.
According to Confucius, “an educated woman is a worthless woman,” but Tan Yunxian—born into an elite family, yet haunted by death, separations, and loneliness—is being raised by her grandparents to be of use. Her grandmother is one of only a handful of female doctors in China, and she teaches Yunxian the pillars of Chinese medicine, the Four Examinations—looking, listening, touching, and asking—something a man can never do with a female patient.
From a young age, Yunxian learns about women’s illnesses, many of which relate to childbearing, alongside a young midwife-in-training, Meiling. The two girls find fast friendship and a mutual purpose—despite the prohibition that a doctor should never touch blood while a midwife comes in frequent contact with it—and they vow to be forever friends, sharing in each other’s joys and struggles. No mud, no lotus, they tell themselves: from adversity beauty can bloom.
But when Yunxian is sent into an arranged marriage, her mother-in-law forbids her from seeing Meiling and from helping the women and girls in the household. Yunxian is to act like a proper wife—embroider bound-foot slippers, pluck instruments, recite poetry, give birth to sons, and stay forever within the walls of the family compound, the Garden of Fragrant Delights.
How might a woman like Yunxian break free of these traditions, go on to treat women and girls from every level of society, and lead a life of such importance that many of her remedies are still used five centuries later? How might the power of friendship support or complicate these efforts? Lady Tan’s Circle of Women is a captivating story of women helping other women. It is also a triumphant reimagining of the life of a woman who was remarkable in the Ming dynasty and would be considered remarkable today.
Juliet's Pick #2: HOW TO CARE FOR A HUMAN GIRL is a tour de force in capturing the intricate tapestry of womanhood and sisterly bonds. As a reader, I was immediately absorbed by the nuanced portrayal of Jada and Maddy, sisters navigating the labyrinthine complexities of unplanned pregnancies, life choices, and long-standing familial rifts. The book avoids moralizing and instead invites us into the raw emotional worlds of its characters, presenting a compelling examination of choice and consequence. In today's volatile political and social climate, this narrative shines a spotlight on the real-life dilemmas women face daily around reproductive rights, the nature of consent, and the societal judgments that often accompany deeply personal decisions. The sisters' journey toward understanding and reconciliation serves as an empowering testament to the resilience and complexity of women, reminding us that sisterhood, in all its messy glory, can often be our most significant lifeline. It deals in some difficult themes, but if you can handle that, I think this book will touch your heart and stay with you forever.
From “a writer at the top of her game” (The New York Times) comes a bighearted and sharply funny debut novel about two estranged sisters and the crossroads they face after becoming unexpectedly pregnant at the same time.
Two years after the death of their mother, Jada and Maddy Battle both navigate unplanned pregnancies. Jada, a thirty-one-year-old psychology PhD student living in Pittsburgh, quietly obtains an abortion without telling her husband, but the secret causes turmoil in her already shaky marriage. Back home in rural Pennsylvania, nineteen-year-old Maddy, who spends her time caring for birds at a wildlife rehabilitation center, is paid off by the man who got her pregnant to get an abortion. But an unsettling visit to a crisis pregnancy center adds to her doubts about whether to go through with it.
Although Maddy still hasn’t forgiven Jada for a terrible betrayal, she goes to her for support, only to discover the cracks in the façade of her sister’s seemingly perfect life. As their past resentments boil over, the sisters must navigate the consequences of their choices and determine how best to care for themselves and each other.
With luminous prose and laser-sharp psychological insight, How to Care for a Human Girl is a compassionate and unforgettable examination of the complexities of choice, the special intimacy of sisterhood, and the bizarre ways our heated political moment manifests in daily life.
Juliet's Pick #3: THE SWEET SPOT struck a chord with me as an uplifting celebration of womanhood and the unbreakable bonds of female friendship. Amid the quirky chaos of Greenwich Village, Lauren, Melinda, and Olivia navigate life's highs and lows, each dealing with her own set of obstacles—career ambitions, romantic betrayals, and even internet fame gone wrong. Yet it's their collective courage to face these challenges head-on, often with humor and always with grace, that is most captivating. Melinda's raw expression of well-deserved anger is especially empowering, giving voice to the often silenced aspects of female emotion. What unites them all is an accidental sorority formed around a mysteriously abandoned baby, and it's through this unexpected twist of fate that they find strength, forgiveness, and a newfound family. This book is a tribute to the sisterhoods we form, offering a heartwarming and hilarious look at the resilience and complexity of women. A must-read!
Amy Poeppel brings her signature “big-hearted, charming” (The Washington Post) style to this wise and joyful novel that celebrates love, hate, and all of the glorious absurdity in between.
In the heart of Greenwich Village, three women form an accidental sorority when a baby—belonging to exactly none of them—lands on their collective doorstep.
Lauren and her family—lucky bastards—have been granted the use of a spectacular brownstone, teeming with history and dizzyingly unattractive 70s wallpaper. Adding to the home’s bohemian, grungy splendor is the bar occupying the basement, a (mostly) beloved dive called The Sweet Spot. Within days of moving in, Lauren discovers that she has already made an enemy in the neighborhood by inadvertently sparking the divorce of a couple she has never actually met.
Melinda’s husband of thirty years has dumped her for a young celebrity entrepreneur named Felicity, and, to Melinda’s horror, the lovebirds are soon to become parents. In her incandescent rage, Melinda wreaks havoc wherever she can, including in Felicity’s Soho boutique, where she has a fit of epic proportions, which happens to be caught on film.
Olivia—the industrious twenty-something behind the counter, who has big dreams and bigger debt—gets caught in the crossfire. In an effort to diffuse Melinda’s temper, Olivia has a tantrum of her own and gets unceremoniously canned, thanks to TikTok.
When Melinda’s ex follows his lover across the country, leaving their squalling baby behind, the three women rise to the occasion in order to forgive, to forget, to Ferberize, and to track down the wayward parents. But can their little village find a way toward the happily ever afters they all desire? Welcome to The Sweet Spot.
Photo credit: Simon & Schuster Canada