Tag Archives: friendship

The Tangled Knot: Women’s Fiction, Summer 2013

Autumn is officially here, but let’s take one last look at the books of summer, shall we?

My usual reading agenda of popular fiction consists of regency and contemporary romance and mystery/thrillers. I usually toss in a book or two that is classified as “women’s fiction.” Typically, while there may be elements of romance involved, the focus is on the personal transformation of the main female character and how she responds to the trials and tribulations of life. Publishers target the marketing of these stories to women readers. Some of these tales are funny while others take a more serious look at problems and relationships. This summer, marriage at its various stages formed the common theme of all of these books.

Andrews, Mary Kay. Ladies’ Night.

ladiesWhen lifestyle blogger Grace Stanton discovers her husband in a compromising position with her personal assistant, she drives his cherished sports car into their pool. The divorce judge declares she must attend expensive anger management sessions. There, Grace meets other women and a man in similar straits. Their post-therapy cocktails reveal they have much in common, including a need for friends, suspicion of the methods of the wacky therapist assigned to them, and distrust of the no-nonsense judge who was put them all in this odd, court-mandated situation. Andrews’ stories always have a light touch, and her characters are just like someone you know.

Cook, Claire. Time Flies.

When Melanie’s husband of many years hooks up with a younger woman, she becomes more and more reclusive. Her grown boys keep fliesin touch, but are focused on their own lives. Melanie has a paralyzing fear of driving on highways. She’d rather dance with a mop than face dating after all the years of marriage. Her welded junk sculptures are cathartic and meaningful to her creative side, but she wallows in her isolation. Then her friend BJ nags her into attending their high school reunion. As they journey down memory lane with an oldies soundtrack, catching up with each other in that way only best friends can after being parted for a long time, Melanie comes to understand that looking forward is better than looking back. Cook’s breezy, personal writing style engages and satisfies as her funny observations about people and life make Melanie’s trip a satisfying experience for the reader as well.

Delinsky, Barbara. Sweet Salt Air.

sweetsaltair Friends from childhood, food blogger Nicole invites Charlotte, a professional travel writer, to visit for the summer and help her prepare a cookbook based on the cuisine of her family’s Maine island summer retreat. As the weeks pass, and Nicole’s surgeon husband faces a medical crisis of his own, the friends reconnect, share and uncover secrets that can pull them back as close as they once were…or drive them forever apart. Delinsky never fails to provide a thoughtful look at life’s problems and the choices we make.

Hilderbrand, Elin. Beautiful Day.

Could a Nantucket wedding be anything less than perfect? Following the wedding planning advice left behind by her deceased motherbeautiful in a “Notebook,” Jenna, the bride, and her groom’s families gather for a dream wedding. However, their complex, intertwined, and often dysfunctional interactions make for a funny, sad, satisfying read, even if you need a spreadsheet to keep track of all the family members.

Kinsella, Sophie. Wedding Night.

weddingHa! Told from the alternating points of view of two British sisters, this comedy of errors almost meets the high expectations for laugh-aloud humor of other Kinsella stories. Disappointed when her long-time beau presents vacation tickets instead of an engagement ring, frustrated Lottie drops him and runs directly into a whirlwind relationship with an old boyfriend, Ben. Within days the couple hie off to Greece to get married! Lottie’s practical older sister, Fliss–recently and bitterly divorced–feels she must step in to thwart Lottie’s impulsive rebound wedding. Hilarity ensues.

Porter, Jane. The Good Daughter (A Brennan Sisters novel).

Life is becoming complicated for Kit Brennan. She’s pushing 40, single, teaches school, and is a middle sister among four, all of whom daughterare coping with the reality of their mother being in the last stages of cancer. Kit is fresh from a long-term relationship with a man who just would not get married. She has a student facing dangerous family issues at home, a new house, a loudly ticking biological clock, and she’s just met a new guy who could be “the one”…except that he doesn’t quite meet her family’s high expectations to be a suitable match for the “good” daughter of the family.

Wiggs, Susan. Apple Orchard.

apple Who knew that there are apple orchards in Sonoma wine country? Not antiques expert Tess Delaney, who also discovers the family she never knew she had there. A workaholic, totally focused on her career, Tess has the shock of her life when an attorney appears out of the blue to tell her she may soon inherit a business she knows nothing about–growing apples. As she begins to unravel her own life story, Tess learns about the perils and sufferings of WWII on resistance fighters, and the impact of that experience as they began life afresh in America. Why did her parents separate? Why didn’t she know she had a half-sister? Wiggs can spin a family tale like few others–her Lakeshore Chronicles series is top-notch. Check them out too!

Weisberger, Lauren. Revenge Wears Prada.

Ten years have passed since Andrea Sachs worked for demanding editor Miranda Priestly at Runway magazine. Andrea and formerrevenge enemy/colleague Emily become reacquainted and start their own successful bridal magazine, The Plunge. After a few years, its commercial popularity has drawn the attention of Miranda’s magazine publisher. So, the partners face a dilemma: should they sell out for big bucks and be affiliated with Miranda’s controlling editorial influence, or remain their own women? This conflict has the potential of splitting up the partners, and what impact will coping with marriage,  in-laws, babies, and lost friendships have on this weighty decision for Andy? This is a satisfying sequel to the popular novel The Devil Wears Prada.


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Not All Who Wander Are Lost: A (Short) 1,001 Movies Update

Previously, on the 1,001 movies project, I decided that maybe I was pushing myself a little too hard, and that I should slow down on my frantic film-watching pace. This decision, for better or worse, meshed with an extremely busy month in my life, in which I bought and moved into my first home. As a result, I haven’t watched a whole lot of movies since my last project-related blog post. And while part of me hangs its head in shame for not making more progress toward my goal, a larger part of me is having so much fun picking out carpet and curtains that it’s completely forgotten to feel guilty.

Enter Frodo Baggins.  Literally and metaphorically.

When my own personal Scooby Gang learned that I had never watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy, despite being a lifelong fan of the books, they took matters into their own hands. Graciously opening up their home to a posse of wise-cracking MST3K wannabes, my dear friends planned a series of get-togethers so that I could at least cross three movies off my list during an extremely busy time in my life. And if you stop and think about it, that’s an awful lot like Sam stepping up to the plate and helping Frodo when he started to droop under his extremely heavy burden.

Okay, okay, perhaps I exaggerate. But struggling to achieve this goal, and having my pals come to my rescue, has me thinking about Tolkien, his good friend Mr. Lewis, Joseph Campbell, and the wealth of fairy and folk tales passed down through the ages.  A common thread they share is that of the hero/ine who passes through a period of despair before s/he triumphs.  Said hero/ine is frequently aided by a friend, human or animal, who provides some sort of aid and comfort to the hero/ine so that s/he has the strength to go on.  I like that, after thousands of years, we are all still living , reading, and watching the same kind of story.  Our obstacles may be spreadsheets, deadlines and overly busy schedules instead of witches and dragons, but the song remains the same, no?

So, after tonight’s planned shenanigans, we’ll be able to log this leg of the movie-watching journey as follows:

  1. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  2. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

for a total of 232 movies.

Any encouraging words you have at this point are welcome, constant readers. Now that we’ve exhausted the Peter Jackson trilogy, I fear I may need some verbal dynamite to bust out of my rut and get back on track…

–Leigh Anne

who gets by with a little help from her friends


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Surprised by the Elegant Gathering

Sometimes I can’t remember how or why a book ended up on my “to-read” list.  If the title seems intriguing, I check it out anyway. Most of the time, it turns out not to have been worth remembering!

One of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had in years, however, came to me recently courtesy of Kris Radish’s novel, The Elegant Gathering of White Snows.  One night, after their weekly “girl time,” eight friends decide to take a break from their lives, lace up their tennis shoes, and start walking. 

Down the highway. 

In the middle of Wisconsin.

With nothing but the clothes on their backs.


Through a mix of newspaper clippings, internal monologues, and narrative passages, we learn the various events that led the friends to seek change, and how their silent crusade–for they speak to no one–affects women and men all over the country as the story of their pilgrimage spreads.

Be forewarned:  this novel’s a weeper, but not in the paper-hearts, sentimental sort of way.  If you have the courage to look deeply into the heart of women’s joys and sorrows, you may find yourself engaged in a good, cleansing cry.  This novel gave me the urge to call up all my girlfriends and tell them how much I love them, and I recommend it highly to anyone who’s ever loved or lost, had a friend, or been a friend.

Have you ever been surprised by a book you didn’t think you’d like?  What have you read lately that’s moved you to tears?

–Leigh Anne


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Divine Secrets of the Sisterchicks’ Traveling Sweet Potato Yada-Yada Prayer Pants

My best friend and I couldn’t be less alike. She’s pretty in pink, and I’m back in black. She enjoys working with doctors, while I prefer my medical men to be of the fictional variety. And while we both appreciate the heady appeal of a well-made margarita, she’s more likely to drink hers on the beach, while I tend to shun direct sunlight whenever possible.

Be that as it may, we’ve been friends now for seventeen years, through good times and not-so-much, and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without our daily conversations about our careers, our personal goals, and, of course, men. The chance to have such a friend, and to be such a friend, is one of the greatest gifts life has to offer.

Maybe that’s why there are so many books and movies about women’s friendship. It would appear that we collectively long to join a mythical group of soul-sisters who will stick by us no matter what. We want to have someone with whom we can both share our faith, and raise some hell. Whether we’re just starting out or approaching midlife, we want to know we have girlfriends we can count on, who will be there for us through thick and thin.

Of course, not all friendships are for life.  Sometimes things don’t work out, and relationships end – you appreciate them for what they were, and move on.   But, if you’re willing to invest time and effort, you might find the story of your own life has become a veritable chick flick (hopefully, one with a happy ending as opposed to otherwise), and that you’ve got friends — or at least one great friend — for life.

Want to read and see more? For additional laughter, tears, and other mayhem on the female friendship front, try some of these library offerings:

Desperate Housewives

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons

The Wildwater Walking Club

Sister Girls

The L Word

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Learning the steps to the midlife cha-cha is definitely much more fun with a good girlfriend along for the ride. Who are the wonderful women in your life, and how have they made you the person you are today?

–Leigh Anne, who makes exceptions to the “no boys allowed” rule for cool guys like Scott and Eleventh Stack’s Constant Male Readers, of course.


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