We鈥檙e not sure Langston Hughes had this week鈥檚 book club in mind when he wrote his famous poem about 鈥渁 dream deferred,鈥 but it sure might resonate with the female characters in these novels. Unfulfilled, unappreciated and in one case not even alive, they collectively bemoan the choices and chances it took to get them to an increasingly frustrated stage in life. Then, they take some serious steps to change the situation. If you鈥檝e ever felt stuck in a rut, don鈥檛 let the best days of your life pass you by; grab one of these exciting reads and get ready for some hell-raisin鈥 in the sun.


1. The Next by Stephanie Gangi ($22): When we say hell-raisin鈥, we mean it: The main character of Stephanie Gangi鈥檚 debut novel is a spirited spirit in purgatory, the ultimate rut. 鈥淭his is not my beautiful life.鈥 Joanna DeAngelis was abandoned by her younger lover, Columbia professor Ned McGowan, when her cancer relapsed, and spent her final days 鈥渄ying wrong鈥 in a social media-induced hell of her own making. As she watched Ned鈥檚 flashy new affair with 鈥渃elebrity dermatologist鈥 and online superstar Trudi Mink, her life ebbed away (and unlike most dramatic breakup reactions, that would be literally). Now she鈥檚 stuck in the Great Almost-Beyond, but she can鈥檛 move on until鈥 well, she moves on.

Nobody said how she had to get over her lost dream, though, and soon Joanna is having the time of her afterlife, exacting some sweet revenge. She visits and causes a stir at her own memorial service, and sets about ruining Trudi and Ned鈥檚 picture-perfect life (while also finding out that things may not be so perfect after all). It isn鈥檛 just about some well-deserved torture, though; Joanna鈥檚 also looking out for her devoted dog and her two loving but troubled daughters, med school resident Anna and 22-year-old Laney, who is just starting out on her own and now feels truly alone.

Through it all, she gradually experiences the otherworldliness of life in the beyond, where memories begin to disappear, time is meaningless and you鈥檙e the ex who鈥檚 truly an 鈥渆x.鈥 Funny, sharp and a little melancholy, if you haven鈥檛 started crossing off the items on your bucket list, this book may just haunt you.


2. Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes ($19): Millions of readers are used to bestselling author Moyes鈥 writing (Me Before You, After You) making them ugly cry, but Moyes focuses her title novella and group of eight short stories on a different ugly reality: deeply unsatisfying relationships. In the novella, 20something Nell Simmons winds up in Paris alone after her inconsiderate boyfriend cancels on the romantic weekend she鈥檚 planned there; worse, it was to be her first weekend ever away with a boyfriend.

Stuck at work. It鈥檚 a surf-and scuba-wear shop. In November. How stuck can he be?鈥 Well, no matter; she has the unfamiliar city, she has herself, she has a double-booked hotel room and she may well have a new love interest. This comes as a bit of a surprise to Nell, whose 鈥渕other, Lilian, was fond of telling anyone who would listen that Nell was 鈥榥ot the adventurous type,鈥欌 but who would rather be 鈥渢he kind of girl who goes to Paris for the weekend.鈥

The short stories are equally filled with detail and romance. One woman changes her life by literally taking a walk in someone else鈥檚 shoes. Other women make good and bad, legal and illegal, temporary and irrevocable changes, and either blaze a trail toward a new life or learn to appreciate the old one.


3. The Babysitter at Rest by Jen George ($16): This collection of five stories, some novella length, from up-and-comer first-time novelist Jen George, gives us five intriguingly unfulfilled women to follow. Written like an honest guidebook to the rest of your life, 鈥淕uidance/The Party鈥 throws a woman in her thirties a party to an adulthood that鈥檚 been a long time coming (relatable) with an authoritative, mysterious robed figure trying to run the show: 鈥淚 was assigned to your case. You鈥檙e now thirty-three鈥hough you鈥檙e visibly aging, you鈥檝e not transitioned properly and now it鈥檚 the last hour.鈥

鈥淚nstruction鈥 features a dissolute art school crowd that divides its time between art and sex, and suggests that absurdism might not be an art movement but a way of life, and 鈥淭ake Care of Me Forever鈥 deals with the loneliness and navel-gazing of a medical life. 鈥淔utures in Child Rearing鈥 highlights our deepest fears about parenthood, and 鈥淭he Sims鈥 asks, what would you do if you could start everything over again?

George covers multiple realities, all of which contain their potential disappointments: singlehood, motherhood, youth, aging, love, self-love and lack of love, where 鈥渓oneliness appears as an objective rejection by the universe.鈥 She lampoons milestones and conditions that have been touted as hallmarks of adulthood. Throughout her social critique, an off-center, surreal energy pulses, creating a world that鈥檚 both too real and unreal. If your answer to the Guide鈥檚 question, 鈥淲hat have you been doing all this time?鈥 sounds surprisingly similar to George鈥檚 鈥 鈥淟ooking around. Watching stuff on TV. Having weird dreams. Eating sandwiches.鈥 鈥 then this book just might be wish-fulfillment.

Do you have other fave books about restless ladies? Tweet them to us @BritandCo.