7 Books That Are Love Letters to Women

August 26 2022
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Women’s Equality Day is today! On this day 102 years ago, the 19th amendment was adopted, and women were officially given the right to vote. In celebration of the historic day, 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 of being female at every season of life. 

The Fortunes of Jaded Women
by Carolyn Huynh

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 livesThere’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.

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The Fortunes of Jaded Women
Carolyn Huynh

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.

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Magic Lessons
by Alice Hoffman

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.

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Magic Lessons
Alice Hoffman

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.

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Fellowship Point
by Alice Elliott Dark

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.

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Fellowship Point
Alice Elliott Dark

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.

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The Women of Brewster Place
by Gloria Naylor

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.

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The Women of Brewster Place
Gloria Naylor

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.

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The Many Daughters of Afong Moy
by Jamie Ford

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.

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The Many Daughters of Afong Moy
Jamie Ford

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.

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The Braid
by Laetitia Colombani

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.

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The Braid
Laetitia Colombani

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Dear Mrs. Bird
by AJ Pearce

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.   

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Dear Mrs. Bird
AJ Pearce

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Photo credit: Simon & Schuster Canada

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