At 18, Susanna appears to be in a tailspin: she’s dropped out of school, had an affair with her high school English teacher, and attempted suicide. At the recommendation of a psychologist who’s barely spoken to her, Susanna’s parents have her check in to a mental ward at McLean Hospital. She cites exhaustion as the reason for her arrival, and feels relieved for the respite—not knowing that she’ll be staying for two years. Susanna engages with the other patients, but it’s her friendship with Lisa that’s chaotic and surprisingly revealing. The two attempt failed escapes, and Susanna revels in Lisa’s antics—but it’s the dark side to Lisa that makes Susanna understand the depths of mental illness. Her memoir is an intimate look at the significance of the friendships we form during even the darkest moments.
The Joy Luck Club
Few relationships are as all knowing as the one between mother and daughter. The Joy Luck Club explores these complex ties through interwoven stories that highlight the disconnect between a group of Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-born daughters. One by one, each mother tells her tale of heartache that shaped her into the woman she is today. The women are resilient and determined, but their daughters can’t help but see them as polarizing opposites to their American existence. Meanwhile, the daughters discuss their own dilemmas—marriage troubles, careers—which ironically mirror aspects of their mothers’ lives. The stories are each remarkable, but the narrative of Suyuan and her daughter Jing-mei will undoubtedly have you reconsidering the bonds between mothers and daughters.
Can a friendship withstand a terrible secret? Nel Wright and Sula Peace know the answer to that question all too well. Kindred spirits who have filled each other’s loneliness since their childhood in Medallion, Ohio, Nel and Sula’s friendship takes an ugly turn when they’re separated during young adulthood. After reconnecting years later, the once inseparable friends quickly discover that they’ve both drastically changed. Nel, an outstanding member of her community, is a stark comparison to Sula, a woman who has rejected society’s norms to live an unconventional life. Nel and Sula’s bond is tested by the very challenges that once drew them together—family conflicts, societal expectations, and experiences of racism. While the duo remains loyal to their memories of each other, a secret from the past is revealed that could destroy all they cherish. Sula reminds us that even the most complicated friendships start out with pure intentions.
The Women of Brewster Place
Proving that a powerful friendship can withstand the test of time, this novel focuses on seven women whose lives weave together over the course of 30 years. Mattie, Etta Mae, Eva, Ciel, Cora, Kiswana, and Melanie reside at Brewster Place, where they each give a glimpse of the plight of Black women in America. Their lives are difficult and exhausting, and feature a revolving door of troublesome men. While each woman experiences turmoil—be it the loss of a child through a freak accident, the return of a wayward lover, or the selfishness of a loved one—it’s their ability to remain loyal to one another that captivates. Women of Brewster Place shows the depths of female friendships, and the power that lies in the act of forgiveness.
A Prayer for Travelers
A Prayer for Travelers holds at its center two young women trying to survive in a bleak desert town. There’s Cale, a loner who was raised by her grandpa Lamb and is now alone in the world, and Penny, a once-popular girl with a dubious side hustle. The two bond while waitressing at a seedy diner, soon becoming inseparable—though there are still secrets between them, like what kind of trouble Penny’s getting into. When Penny disappears, Cale is determined to search every inch of the desert to bring her friend home. A profound and atmospheric tale about the vastness of friendship, it’ll have you reaching out to the ladies you love.
When it comes to friendships from our youth, we remember it all—from the ill-advised matching hair-dye jobs to the cathartic ice-cream benders. As we grow older, the tone of our relationships undoubtedly shifts as we help each other cope through life’s twists and turns. Few people hold a place in our hearts like a best friend, but what happens when people grow apart, or start harboring secrets? And what of the complex relationships between mother and daughter, with their ability to transform into friendship—or get lost in a space of disconnect? Relationships can be soured by the very things that make us human: the pursuit of happiness, wanderlust, or the simple passage of time. These books by women explore the complex nature of our most meaningful relationships—with our sisters, our mothers, and the women we meet as we grow.
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