Books By Women: Family

"How foolish to think you can tell your children about yourself before they're at least fifty. To ask to be seen by them as a person and not as a function. To say : I am your history, you begin from me, listen to me, it could be useful to you." — Elena Ferrante, The Lost Daughter

Bestiary by K-Ming Chang

One evening, Mother tells Daughter a story about a tiger spirit who lived in a woman's body. Her name was Hu Gu Po and she paid the price for her body in hunger. It's one of many stories Daughter absorbs from the women in her family, about gourd daughters, buried gold and rabbit moons. Soon afterwards, Daughter wakes with a tiger tail.

All the while, Daughter is falling for Ben, a neighbourhood girl who is more bird than tiger and has mysterious stories of her own. As the two young lovers translate the grandmother's letters and the myths that surround them, Daughter must reckon with how deep these stories are buried within her, and what power is rising, violently, through her. She will have to bring her family's secrets to light in order to change their destiny.

The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante

Leda is devoted to her work as an English teacher and to her two children. When her daughters leave home to be with their father in Canada, Leda anticipates a period of loneliness and longing. Instead, slightly embarrassed by the sensation, she feels liberated, as if her life has become lighter, easier. She decides to take a holiday by the sea, in a small coastal town in southern Italy. But after a few days of calm and quiet, things begin to take a menacing turn. The seemingly serene tale of a woman's pleasant rediscovery of herself soon becomes the story of a ferocious confrontation with an unsettled past.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

Consent by Annabel Lyon

Saskia and Jenny are twins alike in appearance only. Still, when Jenny is severely injured in an accident, Saskia puts her life on hold to be with her sister. Sara and Mattie are sisters with another difficult dynamic. But when their mother dies, Sara inherits the duty of caring for her sister. Now, both Sara and Saskia, having been caregivers for so long, find themselves on their own. Yet through a cascade of circumstances as devastating as they are unexpected, these two women will come together. Razor-sharp and profoundly moving, Consent is a thought-provoking exploration of the complexities of familial duty, and of how love can become entangled with guilt, resentment, and regret.

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Inside the walls of their old cottage they make music, and in the garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance.

But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. Jeanie and Julius would do anything to preserve their small sanctuary against the perils of the outside world, even as their mother's secrets begin to unravel, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake.

The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang

For years, the residents of Lake Haven, Wisconsin ignored the whispered troubles about the Chao family, if only to keep eating at the best restaurant in town. But when tyrannical patriarch 'Big' Leo Chao is found frozen to death in the family's meat freezer, scandalous events force the community to turn its attention to the three Chao sons.

As the family's dog mysteriously disappears, and Dagou 'Dog Eater' Chao is held on trial for his father's murder, the Chaos' turbulent history spills into the public eye, and a small town looks on in disbelief...

I Couldn't Love You More by Esther Freud

Rosaleen is young, beautiful and still a schoolgirl when, in the early Sixties, she meets the famous sculptor Felix Lehmann. Their affair has to be kept a secret from her parents. But everything changes when Rosaleen finds herself pregnant. 

Kate lives in present day London with her young daughter, her promise and energy as an artist stifled by the unhappiness of her marriage. But something is stirring in Kate; the courage to face a mystery in her past that might just be to do with the visions of a tree that have begun to haunt her work and dreams.

Aoife sits at her husband Cashell's bedside as he lies dying, and tells him the story of their lifetime together: of their courtship in wartime London, their three daughters, their return from exile. But there is a crucial part of the story missing, and, with time running out, Aoife needs Cashell to tell her: what became of Rosaleen?

Captivating and gorgeously written, I Couldn't Love Your More is an unforgettable novel about love, motherhood, secrets and betrayal - and how only the truth can set us free.

Honour by Elif Shafak

Pembe and Adem Toprak leave Turkey for London. There they make new lives for their family. Yet the traditions and beliefs of their home come with them--carried in the blood of their children, Iskender and Esma. Trapped by past mistakes, the Toprak children find their lives torn apart and transformed by a brutal and chilling crime.

Set in Turkey and London in the 1970s, Honour explores pain and loss, loyalty and betrayal, the clash of tradition and modernity, as well as the love and heartbreak that can tear any family apart.

Tastes Like War by Grace M. Cho

Grace M. Cho grew up as the daughter of a white American merchant marine and the Korean bar hostess he met abroad. They were one of few immigrants in a xenophobic small town during the Cold War, where identity was politicized by everyday details--language, cultural references, memories, and food. When Grace was fifteen, her dynamic mother experienced the onset of schizophrenia, a condition that would continue and evolve for the rest of her life.

Part food memoir, part sociological investigation, Tastes Like War is a hybrid text about a daughter's search through intimate and global history for the roots of her mother's schizophrenia. In her mother's final years, Grace learned to cook dishes from her parent's childhood in order to invite the past into the present, and to hold space for her mother's multiple voices at the table.

Names For Light by Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint

Born in Myanmar and raised in Bangkok and San Jose, Myint finds that she does not have typical memories of arriving in the United States; instead, she is haunted by what she cannot remember. By the silences lingering around what is spoken. By a chain of deaths in her family line, especially that of her older brother as a child. For Myint, absence is felt as strongly as presence. And, as she comes to understand, naming those absences, finding words for the unsaid, means discovering how those who have come before have shaped her life. Names for Light is a moving chronicle of the passage of time, of the long shadow of colonialism, and of a writer coming into her own as she reckons with her family's legacy.