Not sure what to add to your summer reading list? Here are some page-turners to toss in your beach bag featuring mom characters you’d totally hang out with in real life.
by Randy Susan Meyers
This is a fictionalized version of Bernie Madoff’s descent from a life of affluence and luxury to his exposure as a fraud when his Ponzi scheme crumbles, ruining thousands of lives. In this compelling story, we meet Jake and Phoebe Pierce as students. Alternating between Jake’s and Phoebe’s perspectives, Meyer chronicles a marriage clouded by deceit. When Jake’s lies are exposed, Phoebe must face the truth: she never really knew her husband.
As Phoebe’s life implodes, the public judges and shames her, assuming her complicity in her husband’s crimes. We, however, have known her since she was a teenager who was desperate to get out from under her overbearing mother’s roof. We worried for her as Jack grew increasingly anxious and detached, and we rooted for her as she re-invented herself as a professional. So we feel for her when her children cut Jake out of their lives, leaving Phoebe to decide where her loyalties lie.
by Anita Diamant
This is a poignant, funny, coming-of-age story chronicling the life of Addie Baum. Born to Jewish immigrants in Boston at the turn of the twentieth century, Addie’s early life is characterized by her struggle to escape her parents’ expectations and forge her own path. As she unspools her story in response to her granddaughter’s request for an interview (“How did you become the woman you are today?”), we are transported to early 1900’s Boston, where Addie goes to great lengths to obtain an education, forges enduring friendships, faces losses, and searches for love. Addie’s sharp insight, wicked sense of humor, and vast wisdom make you want to sit down with her over a cup of coffee and a platter of blintzes and hear more of her stories.
by Celeste Ng
The story is set into motion when sixteen-year-old Lydia Lee’s body is found in a local lake in a small rust-belt town, but the drama actually began long before Lydia was even born. The story takes root when Lydia’s mother, Marilyn, a Radcliffe co-ed with dreams of becoming a doctor, meets her father, James, a Harvard professor who is the American-born son of Chinese parents. A masterful storyteller, Ng exposes the mountain of secret hurts and desires the Lees have harbored over the years, which ultimately leads to Lydia’s death.
Initially, it’s easy to lay blame on Marilyn. As a mother, she is frequently absent, yet cool and demanding when she is present. But as Marilyn’s character is revealed to us – her dreams and longings juxtaposed against her own mother’s stifling expectations – our hearts break for this bereaved mother.
by Liane Moriarty
Cecilia Fitzpatrick, mother of three, loving wife, and a fixture in her community, is living a comfortable life when she stumbles on a letter that upends her world. On the envelope are the words, “Cecila, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died.” It's written by her husband, who is still very much alive.
Cecilia goes back and forth on whether to open the letter, revealing an inner life we can all relate to. Despite appearances, she struggles with the ubiquitous challenges of managing the invisible work of motherhood, maintaining a marriage, and connecting with her kids without smothering them. This page-turner begs the question of whether it’s possible to fully know another person or even ourselves.
by Molly Ringwald
(Yes, that Molly Ringwald.) This trio of stories contains the frailties and complexities of human nature, the intense bonds of family, and the complicated, charged dynamics of marriage. Three distinct narratives intersect to reveal the connections between the characters linking the stories.
The action revolves around Greta and Philip, a couple whose marriage is collapsing as Greta endures fertility treatments and the never-ending work of mothering their sassy, energetic, six-year-old daughter. Greta’s inner monologue regarding everything from the disappointments of her life (including her husband’s infidelity), to her observations of the mundane, ring heartbreakingly true.
by M.L Stedman
We meet Isabel, as an innocent young woman with a kind heart who falls in love with a stoic older man. Recently back from serving in the Australian military during the war, Tom Sherbourne has accepted a position as a lighthouse keeper on a desolate island. There, he and his new bride create a beautiful, simple life. The only thing missing from their perfect world is a child.
Having endured two miscarriages and just days after delivering a stillborn, Isabel finds a baby in a boat that has drifted ashore. Against her scrupulous husband’s wishes, Isabel nurses and cares for the baby, urging Tom not to report the mysterious arrival. Despite the unsavory circumstances, we smile along with Isabel when the baby provides a light that shines through the shadow of her crushing losses.
The baby is two when Tom and Isabel return to the mainland. At that point, they must face the fact that another family has been crushed by the loss of the baby they’ve claimed as their own.
by Anna Quindlen
Rebecca Winters is a divorced photographer whose career peaked decades ago. With a grown son needing occasional financial help, an aging mother to care for, and a dwindling income, Winters is desperate to make ends meet. Under mounting pressure, she sublets her beloved New York City apartment and takes up residence in a dilapidated cottage in the country. There she finds renewed inspiration for her art and a simpler way of life, along with an unexpected romance.
Though she enjoyed fame and recognition for her art, Rebecca is anything but pretentious. She captures our hearts as she navigates the transition from city life to the slow place of a small town. Though she may have regrets about her ex-husband, it is without a trace of self-pity that she recounts the injustices of her marriage. By the time she meets her new flame, we are thrilled for Rebecca to finally meet someone who deserves her.
by Emma Donoghue
Told from the perspective of five-year-old Jack, "Room" is the story of a mother and her son trapped in a basement by a kidnapper who has kept them there for years. While the small room is the only home Jack has ever known, it's his mother’s jail. Known only as “Ma,” (we never do find out her real name), Jack’s mother is a strong, courageous, creative woman, whose love for her son burns white hot. Though most of us couldn’t fathom being imprisoned by a madman, we connect with Ma’s commitment to her beloved son and her undying drive to protect him.