Lucy Everhart’s mother was a marine-biologist whose research on great white sharks off the coast of Massachusetts went unfinished when she died suddenly while on the job. Now five years later, twelve-year-old Lucy and her best friend Fred have found her mom’s research proposal which sparks an interest in her mom’s unfinished project. It’s a story of loss, a pure and unfiltered view of grief and healing through the eyes of a young girl. Kate Allen writes with a great amount of respect for the complicated, unforgiving emotion that is grief, and the particular difficulty of a twelve-year-old girl dealing with these feelings. As she uses her mother’s research to cope with and attempt to look beyond her loss, she also brings together an interesting band of helpers, from a kindly, elderly neighbor to some of her mom’s old colleagues. Lucy is warm-hearted, stubborn, sometimes broken, other times stronger than she should have to be, and she’s surrounded by a beautifully supportive community trying to help her battle her grief while battling their own. It’s sweet, full of heart, and definitely tear-inducing—a reminder that all living things are equipped with tools that help us survive, whether we’re fish or human.
Inspired by true events, this novel unfolds like an incredibly deep, nuanced one-act play. Eight women in a Mennonite colony climb up into a hay loft for a secret meeting. For two years, they and other women in the colony believed demons were visiting them in the night to punish them for their sins, but finally discover they’ve actually been drugged and raped by a group of men made up of family members, friends, and acquaintances from their own community. What follows is a series of meetings between the eight women, told through the “minutes” taken by a male member of the community who has his own interesting story. We see the women through his observations and sometimes biases (which is such a fascinating way to tell a story), but every single character is so beautifully fleshed out within just the first ten pages that it genuinely hurt my heart to say goodbye to them at the end of the novel. This is a triumphant, beautiful, tragic tale of people, of women in particular, grappling with human issues, and claiming the power to make decisions about their own lives. Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but also undeniably powerful, Women Talking is a quick read, but it’ll stay with you forever. I won’t be letting go of this one for a while.
How often have we seen women show justified anger, even fury and rage, while making public statements, only to have to apologize for it later due to pressure from their peers, the media, and the public? How often have you swallowed your own anger because you know deep down inside that women’s anger is oftentimes seen as unattractive and off-putting? Traister covers a wide scope of social and political change in U.S. history, and how angry women were the catalyst for nearly every movement—abolition, suffrage, workers’ rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, et cetera. But she also gives perspective to the #MeToo movement, Time’s Up, the systematic erasure of our accomplishments and voices, and other battles women are fighting today, and tells us how communal, righteous fury can be honed into a tool for change. From how society has recognized and given a platform to men’s anger while demonizing or infantilizing women’s anger, to how women of color’s (especially black women’s) anger is received more harshly than white women’s anger, Good and Mad is an intersectional tribute to angry women. As with Traister’s other works, I left feeling like I wasn’t alone or crazy. Instead, I felt validated, empowered, and fired up!