My Absolute Darling
Turtle Alveston lives on the coast of northern California with her father Martin, on land that must be worth millions. The house itself, though, is dilapidated, and Turtle can’t always count on Martin to provide food or pay for electricity because his deep distrust of society prevents him from keeping a job. Although Turtle attends school, Martin otherwise keeps her entirely isolated and coaches her on how to clean, load, and shoot their many guns. Their relationship is dark and disturbing, and Turtle’s bravery admirable in the face of such abuse.
Ten-year-old Fanny Price is sent to live with her aunt and uncle at Mansfield Park to escape her parents’ poverty. When, years later, the wealthy and quite fashionable Henry Crawford becomes enamored with Fanny, she’s expected to count her blessings and accept his proposal of marriage. Fanny, however, has witnessed Mr. Crawford’s inappropriate attention to her engaged cousin and knows him to be less than honorable. She refuses him and is sent back to live with her parents in Portsmouth as punishment. You can probably guess how she answered the proposal.
Another young girl goes missing in Wind Gap, Missouri, and Camille Preaker, Chicago reporter and Wind Gap native, is sent to her hometown to investigate. Returning to her childhood home brings back memories of her sister, who died when both she and Camille were young. Camille copes by drinking and cutting words into her skin, a compulsion that’s led to much of her body being covered in scars. As she gets closer to the truth about the latest disappearance, Camille realizes her own family has more than one dark secret.
When Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan graduates from Ole Miss in 1962, she returns to her family’s cotton plantation. Once home, instead of securing a husband or devoting her time to the Junior League, Skeeter embarks on a plan to become a published author and takes a job with the Jackson Journal writing an advice column on housekeeping, with the help of Aibileen, an African-American maid. Skeeter later convinces Aibileen and the other maids to let her write their stories, which Skeeter plans to publish as a book that will highlight the ongoing segregation in their town.
Little Fires Everywhere
Izzy Richardson must have been the one to set the family’s house on fire because she’s the only one not there watching as it burns. The youngest of the four Richardson children, Izzy befriends the family’s tenant, Mia Warren, a relationship that both comforts and challenges her. At the same time, Mia’s daughter, Pearl, begins to spend more time in the Richardson home. The novel begins with Izzy’s feat of destruction and rebellion, and culminates with the revelation of why she believed such an act was necessary.
The Book of Essie
Meghan MacLean Weir
My parents moved in with my husband and me about a year after our daughter was born. At some point during the unpacking, a throw pillow embroidered with a quote from George Burns appeared on our couch and continued to pop up in unexpected places, despite my best efforts to banish it to the hall closet. “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city,” it read.
The joke, of course, was that not only were we all in the same city, but under the same roof. When it was good, it was great. And when it was not good, well, I was grateful to have a big house. Here are some fabulous reads that remind me of how lucky I was that my own family conflicts have been largely confined to whether the toilet paper should go over or under the roll. In each of these tales, as in my debut novel The Book of Essie, the heroine finds herself at odds with her family and must devise a way to stand up—or get out.
Featured Image: Africa Studio; Author Photo: Michael Lionstar