“Heptalogy” is described by Wikipedia as “a compound literary or narrative work that is made up of seven distinct works. While not in wide usage, it has been used to describe such examples as the Harry Potter series of books and The Chronicles of Narnia.” While the books from my summer reading list aren’t a collection of their own, they all portray important messages with a common thread.
Summer 2019 presented a unique opportunity that very few adults get to experience past their early twenties: I got to live with my mom. For three months, I lived with her in a scenic and quiet town while working remotely for my job in a big city. The move was caused by something no one hopes for; I was recovering from a tumultuous breakup with someone I had believed was “the one.” The summer I turned 31, I was truly distraught, distracted, and hurt. I had almost no belongings with me, had just moved my nervous cat to his 7th home in 7 years, and had no idea where I would live/work/belong in the near or distant future.
If you’re reading between the lines or contain a rare level of optimism, maybe you see a silver lining. I had no bills or major obligations. I knew almost no one in town. There was a pool. People we very polite to me (probably because they felt sorry for me, but I appreciated the kindness). Wine was consistently delivered from my mom’s S.O. who took great pride in learning my nuanced Sauvignon Blanc preferences. I had few responsibilities beyond showering every now and then and getting my job done remotely, which turns out to be much simpler devoid of office small talk. I went through hell to get there, but I somehow wound up in an adult Narnia.
I did what most of us can only fantasize about: Nothing. I read books by the pool and operated at my leisure 24/7. I can’t exactly say it was “blissful” due to the aching in my chest but in ways, it was wonderful. (Mom, if you’re reading this, I’d really like to come back this summer.)
Seven of the ten-or-so books I read had common theme: Feminism and strong female leads. Whether or not my subconscious needed these messages after a horrible breakup or these ideas were just majorly #trending, the cause didn’t matter. I alternated light reading with deeper intellectual stories and somehow ended up with a balanced array of feminist messages; some reflecting strife and others transcendence, some historical and others modern-day, some abstract and others straightforward.
For your own journey down femme lane, here are my recommendations. They do not come with the summer home, but they are still worth the read:
1. Finding Mrs. Ford by Deborah Goodrich Royce
Finding Mrs. Ford is fast and smart, unveiling a dynamic woman’s life through stories from very different environments of two different decades. You will enjoy getting to know the characters and the carefulness with which Royce described appearances and settings. The back-and-forth of settings in 1979 and 2014 keeps the book exciting.
2. The Other Woman by Sandie Jones
The Other Woman’s tension and quick pace will make you want to carry the book everywhere. The words on the page are addicting; I ached to read more. The novel focuses on a deep-in-love thirty-something and the relationship she has with her would-be mother in law. The storyline itself is not as notable as the emotions portrayed by the main character. As a young woman the same age as the protagonist, I could relate very well to her motives and reactions. The dialogue in this novel often created a visceral and familiar reaction. I think the author has a gift for expressing relatable feelings. I would definitely recommend this novel to a friend.
3. Everything I Never Told You by Celest Ng
Everything I Never Told You has a darkness to it that the author delivers subtly and eloquently. The story follows family members after a teenager’s drowning mixed with revealing flashbacks. I appreciated how the characters are revealed slowly over the course of the book rather than delivered upfront-and-center, which helps make the novel difficult to put down. Plan to read a light story after this one, but don’t skip it; it’s a deeply provoking and important read that will stay with you.
4. The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand
As a Bostonian for 13 years, I can’t resist a Nantucket novel. The queen of them all did it again in this page-turner mystery about a maid of honor found dead in the water the morning of a million-dollar wedding. Of course, Hilderbrand’s stories are especially fun for those who have visited the island and dined or stayed at one of the establishments mentioned, but she provides enough visual imagery for anyone to enjoy. The small-town gossip and her depiction of Nantucket characters always feel accurate.
5. Whisper Network by Chandler Baker
Whisper Network is the most modern, straightforward novel of the bunch. The book investigates male/female dynamics in the workplace with spot-on observations, following the death of a male C-level employee. Dynamics of ego and helplessness are continually uncovered. You will race to the end of this part-mystery-part-social-commentary.
6. Ten Women by Marcela Serra
Ten Women uncovers universal emotions as ten Chilean women account their lives to one another during a retreat suggested by their psychiatrist. I am confident women of all ages and backgrounds will relate to the deep truths revealed by these strong characters. There are many moments of enlightenment carefully woven into stories that largely reflect strife. Some of these glimmering revelations are delightful and others reflect timeless truths and hardships, many in regard to gender roles and finances. I stopped at several powerful passages that impressed me with their unique position and precise wording. My only criticism is I felt the voices of the characters were all too similar, which is likely due to the book being translated to English.
7. Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel
There is simply nothing not to like about Mr. and Mrs. American Pie. I laughed out loud at multiple points. The main character is a hoot, on a mission to prove her worth to the high-class of Palm Springs, CA. (She reminded me of a family member, which made it all the funnier.) I also had such a strong visual reel of the story; I can only hope this book will be “optioned” for a movie. It was fast-paced, witty, and had such well-crafted characters. I’ve recommended it to everyone!