With cuffing season long gone, summer is a time for flings and romance… right? While that may or may not be true, there’s one undisputed fact: The pool boy may be for now, but the lady telling you to go for it is forever. This summer, BFFs and sisters rule fiction, from the lightest beach reads to the darkest, most contemplative stories. This week’s book club features women who are deeply affected by each others’ presence, whether they’re separated by a continent or living just down the street.
1. A Dangerous Age by Kelly Killoren Bensimon ($17): It’s a formula that never gets old: Four friends navigate the treacherous waters of Manhattan, bickering, bonding and making bad choices. In Kelly Killoren Bensimon’s A Dangerous Age, the heat of the summer threatens to melt the longstanding friendships, careers and even lives of four artistic besties. And who can tell the tale better than a former Real Housewives of New York cast member?
“I’ll be forty-two next month and I didn’t see this coming. I’m sitting in the same apartment with the same friends, having a version of the same conversation we’ve been having for twenty years. The rearview mirror looks more like a halfhearted quickie than the sultry, slow striptease I’d imagined.” Narrator Lucy is struggling with a failing long-term marriage to a famous artist more than twenty years her senior and a long-dead modeling career, all her hopes riding the support of her friends.
Billy, broke and single, has quit her restaurant critic job to write and sell a book about cocktails, all while running an “adventure supper club” out of her apartment. Sarah’s rich and engaged, riding atop the Page Six world of charity galas (but for how long?). Art dealer Lotta’s forty-five, divorced and still at the club to closing every night, with a drug habit that’s becoming less recreational and more full-time. With their youth behind them in a youth-worshipping society, the women have entered a dangerous age, but it’s more dangerous to go alone. If you’re a fan of witty banter and drama, this book belongs on your bookshelf.
2. Homegoing: A Novel by Yaa Gyasi ($17): Homegoing, an epic novel spanning seven generations, starts with the separation and journey of two half-sisters who find themselves leading two completely different lives in the parallel worlds of 18th century Ghana and America. The book shows us how these sisters’ divergent fates — and the seemingly insurmountable barriers of classism and racism — have huge, sprawling repercussions for their descendants.
Effia is brokered in marriage to an Englishman and knows privilege and comfort in Cape Coast Castle, while Esi winds up a casualty of the repugnant American slave trade. “He knew then that the memory of the fire that burned, then fled, would haunt him, his children, and his children’s children for as long as the line continued,” Gyasi writes. In Ghana, British rule and the brutality of slavery caused hundreds of years of war. The American experience of a family sold into slavery, from the 1800s to the present day, might be a little more of a familiar story to readers, but it’s told in fascinating and powerful detail, with richly developed characters who aren’t simple heroes and villains.
Comparisons have been drawn between first-time novelist Gyasi and legends Toni Morrison and James Baldwin. Ta-Nehisi Coates calls Homegoing “an inspiration,” saying, “I think I needed to read a book like this to remember what is possible.” Homegoing promises to be a searing, necessary take on the effect of captivity on both a familial and national scale.
3. Goodnight, Beautiful Women by Anna Noyes ($17): In this book of eleven short stories, set along the coast of Maine, relationships blossom between women and girls as the tales weave together. Noyes writes tales of pain, loss and hardship, but also love and strength.
In “Hibernation,” Joni tries to figure out why her husband threw his possessions, then himself, into the quarry behind their house. “Werewolf” shows a woman struggling to atone for blaming an innocent, intellectually disabled family member for childhood sexual abuse. “The Quarry” features two sisters in a discussion of identity and social standing. In “Drawing Blood,” a possible bond between two girls from wildly divergent social classes in the early 1900s is tested as they initiate a painful affair, and in “This Is Who She Was,” an important relationship is forged between a young woman and her boyfriend’s mother.
The stories revel in the small details of overwhelming situations, like the difficulty of picking out the proper clothing when you’ve just lost your husband. “Joni knew she was OK, even if her thinking wasn’t. She had clean hair,” Noyes writes. “She had a fruit bowl filled with nectarines, and a row of books on the shelf arranged from large to small.” These beautiful women don’t always make beautiful choices, but their intricate lives make for gorgeous reading.
What books are your BFFs? Tag us in your next sisterly read @BritandCo.
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