There is a lot to celebrate in March – St. Patrick’s Day, Holi, the first day of Spring (and its promise of warmer weather). But more importantly, March is Women’s History Month and March 8th is International Women’s Day, and there are just so many remarkable female voices in literature to celebrate. Here are a few of our recent favorites from unique female authors from different cultures, genres, and backgrounds.
The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
A beautifully written novel about two forbidden lovers, Kostas and Defne, and the history of Cyprus and its inhabitants. The island has a long, troubled history rooted in volatile conflicts between the Greek and Turkish citizens. As young teenagers, Kostas (a Christian Greek) and Defne (a Muslim Turk) were prohibited to be together due to their cultural differences. Like most young lovers, they refused to stop seeing each other and sought refuge in the local tavern where they could see each other secretly during the day. The two lovers spend many afternoons in the Happy Fig, admiring the beautiful fig tree that grows in the center while sampling the delicious cuisine and enjoying each other’s company.
However, political tensions quickly escalate and war breaks out in Cyprus. Kostas is sent to live with his family in London while Defne remains in Cyprus. Decades later, Kostas returns to his birthplace for his work as a botanist. He crosses paths with Defne again, all these years later. Can their love survive the years of separation and all that happened in between?
Elif Shafak writes with such rich, exquisite language that instantly teleports the reader to Cyprus, the scorching sun burning bare skin while the sounds of native island birds‘ joyful chirping fill your ears. A must-read for those seeking to escape this world for another.
The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth
Tully and Rachel are shocked, to say the least, when they meet their father’s new girlfriend Heather for the first time, only to find out that the two are actually engaged. The worst part is that Stephen is still legally married to their mother Pam, who has Alzheimer’s and currently lives in a nursing home. Both sisters have struggled with the slow, traumatic loss of the wonderful person Pam was, and now their father expects them to welcome this stranger into their lives. It is simply all too much. Tully and Rachel cope with the alarming news in different, self-destructive ways. Tully’s shoplifting habit is quickly getting out of control. Rachel’s indulgent stress-eating is also cause for concern as a result of secret, repressed childhood trauma.
As the two sisters get to know Heather better, the realization begins to dawn on them that maybe the real villain isn’t Heather, but maybe their father is not exactly who they thought he was. Rachel finds a mysterious hot water bottle loaded with cash, Heather discovers suspicious bruises on her body with explanations that are just too convenient, and Pam’s wild, accusatory outbursts might actually make sense. If only they could speak to Pam about what really happened during her marriage to Stephen, maybe they could find out the truth.
Fiona + Jane by Jean Chen Ho
Fiona and Jane is a multi-decade story of friendship between two Taiwanese girls told through short stories from both girls’ perspectives that explore sexuality, heartbreak, loss, and the wisdom one develops from life not turning out the way it was expected. In this powerful coming-of-age novel, Fiona and Jane learn what it means to grow apart and then back together again as they mature from young girls to teenagers to adults. This story is a true testament to the beauty and power of female friendships that stand the test of time, adversity, and distance.
Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, left behind her home and the complicated relationship with her mother for an unwelcoming country. Jeannette, Carmen’s daughter, is a struggling addict with a headstrong, rebellious nature that seems to attract trouble everywhere she goes. In the latest effort to give her mother a heart attack, Jeannette flees to visit her estranged grandmother in Cuba, desperate to finally learn the truth about her past.
From 19th century Cuba to present-day Miami, Gabriele Garcia takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery, survival, and making peace with one’s past through the exploration of family history. A compelling story about the strength and perseverance of women in the face of suffering and hardships, Of Women and Salt is the perfect novel to celebrate all women everywhere.
Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens
Lifestyle reporter Laura is on her way to the Channels to research her favorite love story of all time – her parents’. However, her trip is not off to the best start. In a twist of fate, Laura discovers that she has taken the wrong suitcase from the airport. Initially, she is annoyed – her tyrannical boss has set a crazily unrealistic deadline as it is and Laura cannot afford any delays. But curiosity gets the best of her and upon further inspection of the suitcase’s contents, Laura cannot ignore the giddy feeling that this suitcase-swap fiasco just might be her own fairytale meet-cute with her soulmate.
In her quest to find this elusive Prince Charming and retrieve her own bag, Laura enlists the help of a local cab driver to take her around the island as she revisits the places that meant so much to her parents. When she finally tracks down this mystery man, Laura finds that he is everything she has ever wanted in a man and a partner. Will this finally be her happy ending? But then why can’t she stop thinking about scruffy, grumpy, cab-driver Ted? This trip quickly becomes much more than just researching her parent’s love story. A delightful, heart-warming story about a woman rediscovering her purpose, identity, and own happiness that will restore your faith in smart, witty romances.
This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith
Therapist Tallie Clark is still reeling from the aftermath of her recent divorce and newfound (albeit unwanted) freedom. One night during a particularly bad rainstorm, she is driving home from work as usual until something alarming catches her eye. There, standing right alongside the bridge is a man dangerously close to jumping. Instinct immediately takes over and Tallie knows she will do anything to safely remove him out of harm’s way. Tallie is finally able to persuade him to join her for coffee then to her home for the weekend. Tallie works day and night to ensure Emmett feels safe and comfortable in her home. As Emmett opens up about his past, Tallie realizes she is not the only one with painful secrets and indescribable grief.
During the absolute darkest moments in their lives, fate led them to each other and to the possibility of brighter futures just within reach. From both Tallie and Emmett’s alternating perspectives comes a wonderful, poignant story about mental health, healing, and second chances that take you on an emotional roller coaster right along with them.