Inner strength, individual resilience, courage, and the determination to overcome trauma, tragedy, abuse, illness and near-death experiences, or perhaps even the first steps towards independence after divorce or widowhood … whatever the reasons, this month we celebrate the triumphant recovery of a woman’s soul.

 A Borrowed Life (Lake Union Publishing 2020)
by Kerry Anne King

Liz has perfectly played the part of Mrs. Thomas Lightsey, exemplary pastor’s wife and mother, for the past 30 years. But maintaining appearances for the congregation and catering to her demanding husband takes a toll, and she’s lost herself in meeting the expectations of others. When Thomas suddenly dies, Liz feels shock, grief, and, to her surprise, the siren song of freedom. 

Despite the resistance of her daughter, Abigail, to even the smallest changes, Liz lands a role at the community theater. Inspired by new friends and the character she plays, she explores life’s possibilities until life hits her with the unthinkable: a pregnancy at forty-nine. Torn between conflicting loyalties to her daughter, her lover, her unborn baby and herself, Liz fights to rebuild her dream life.

 The Wilderness Between Us (Koehler Books 2021)
by Penny Haw 

Faye Mackenzie and her friend’s anorexic daughter, Clare, are thrown together when a flood separates them from their hiking group in the remote, mountainous Tsitsikamma region of South Africa. With Clare critically injured, Faye is compelled to overcome her self-doubt and fear of the wild to take care of the younger woman, who opens her heart to Faye.

As their new friendship takes the women on an unexpected journey of discovery, the rest of the group wrestles with the harrowing aftermath of their own near tragedy. When the hiking party is reunited, their number is reduced by one. 

Juxtaposing physical and psychological suspense, this is the tale of two fragile women who unexpectedly find clarity, independence and renewed purpose as they fight to survive and as they affirm family, friendship, adventure, and the healing power of nature and compassion.

 Dovetails in Tall Grass (SparkPress 2020)
by Samantha Specks 

In 1862, 38 Dakota-Sioux men were hanged in the largest mass execution in US history. Dovetails in Tall Grass is the story of two young women — one a settler, one Dakota-Sioux — connected by the fate of the 39th man.

As war overtakes the prairie, Oenikika’s husband, Tashunke, protects Emma when her family farmstead is attacked by Dakota warriors. Oenikika, believing Tashunke died in battle, flees alongside her father while desperately trying to hold onto her calling as a healer and the traditions of her people. When the war is over and revenge-fueled war trials begin, Emma, now working as the court recorder, watches Tashunke unjustly sentenced to hang. Soon, Emma is fighting to save his life, just as he did for her. In a swiftly changing world, both Emma and Oenikika must look deep within and fight for the truth of their convictions — despite the horror and injustice happening around them.

 Side by Side (Inanna 2018)
by Anita Kushwaha 

Kavita Gupta is a woman in transition. When her troubled older brother, Sunil, disappears, she does everything in her power to find him, convinced that she can save him. Ten days later, the police arrive at her door to inform her that Sunil’s body has been found and her world crumbles. 

As she tries to cope with her loss, Kavita’s support system around her begins to unravel as both her own marriage and that of her parents suffer, her health develops into more sinister conditions as a result of unprocessed trauma. She bears her burden alone, but after hitting her lowest point, she knows she needs to find a better way of coping. 

Desperate for connection, Kavita reaches out to a bereavement group where she meets Hawthorn, a free-spirited young man with whom she discovers a deep connection through pain. After being blindsided by a devastating marital betrayal, she wonders if a fresh start is possible in the wake of tragedy.

 Fading Past (CreateSpace 2015)
by Mary Kathleen Mehuron 

As America explodes into the swinging sixties, nine-year-old Mary Patricia’s parents flee their old melting pot neighborhood to join the upwardly mobile members of the cocktail generation. Abandoned at seventeen when her family moves again, Mary Patricia is left to ride out a tsunami of struggle, including lying about her age in order to land a job working for the Chicago Mafia. Gut instinct tells her she is in imminent danger and she escapes to the counterculture of Southern California in the early 1970s and then a jubilant Bicentennial Manhattan. 

Her tenacious pursuit of a college degree takes her north to Vermont, where she hopes for a stable life when she marries and has three sons. It’s a Pyrrhic victory as she confronts a string of calamities, including divorce, serious illness and her parents’ deaths after 9/11, but is there more to life than just surviving?

 Blind Turn (Black Rose Writing 2021)
by Cara Sue Achterberg 

Liz Johnson single-handedly raised an exemplary daughter — honor student, track star, and all-around good kid — despite the disapproval of her father and her small town. How could that same teenager be responsible for the death of the high school’s beloved football coach? This is Texas, where high school football ranks right up there with God, so while the legal battle wages, the public deals its own verdict.

Desperate for help, Liz turns to a lawyer whose affection she long ago rejected and attempts to play nice with her ex-husband. Meanwhile, her daughter struggles with guilt and her own demons as she faces the consequences of an accident she doesn’t remember.

 The Night Child (Blackstone Publishing 2018)
by Anna Quinn

Nora Brown teaches high school English and lives a quiet life in Seattle with her husband and six-year-old daughter. But one November day, moments after dismissing her class, a girl’s face appears above the students’ desks — “a wild numinous face with startling blue eyes, a face floating on top of shapeless drapes of purples and blues where arms and legs should have been. Terror rushes through Nora’s body — the kind of raw terror you feel when there’s no way out, when every cell in your body, your entire body, is on fire — when you think you might die.”

Twenty-four hours later, while on Thanksgiving vacation, the face appears again. The vision throws her into an emotional upheaval so frightening and raw, she finds herself in a psychiatric hospital and risks losing her daughter, her marriage and her identity. With extraordinary inner strength, resilience and courage Nora faces terrifying memories of childhood trauma and ultimately, moves towards self-love, recovers, and rises into wholeness and light and hope. 

 Just One Look (Black Rose Writing 2021)
by Joanne Kukanza Easley

In 1965 Chicago, 13-year-old Dani falls in love with a handsome fifteen-year-old Tennessee transplant named John. For six blissful years, she floats on a cloud of happiness and plans their future, but John doesn’t return from the Vietnam war. 

Rather than processing her loss, Dani goes off the rails in the singles’ bars on Rush Street. Her life bereft of self-examination, she eventually lands in a loveless marriage. An unplanned pregnancy, after a night Dani would rather forget, derails her ambitions for college. By the time she is 24, she’s left with a baby, a small fortune, and two ghosts to face the undaunting challenge of reviewing her life since John’s death with a critical eye. 

 What’s Left Behind (Kensington Books 2014) 
by Lorrie Thomson 

What do you do with your life when the person you’ve built your whole life around is gone? It’s not the first time Abby Stone has faced the question. At eighteen, she envisioned a future with her childhood sweetheart, Charlie, only to have him go off to school and leave a pregnant Abby behind. But that pales beside a second loss, when her eighteen-year-old son, Luke, falls to his death from his third-floor dorm.

Abby throws herself into running her thriving B&B on the coast of Maine. With the help of Rob, a local landscape architect, she plans a backyard labyrinth as a memorial to Luke — a place to find peace and solace. Even as Charlie begins hanging around again, looking for a chance to do right by her, Abby resolves to look forward, not back. And then Luke’s girlfriend arrives on Abby’s doorstep — pregnant, as alone as Abby once was — bringing with her the unexpected gift of a new beginning, one that celebrates the past, explores the depth of a mother’s bond, and the way love’s memory can fill the gaps in a shattered heart. 

 Dire’s Club (Abalos Publishing 2021)
by Kimberly Packard 

Staring death in the face was Jimmy Dire’s business. He met it with a warm hug, a kind word and a smile. Dire’s Club gave the terminally ill one final, bucket-list adventure before passing on, but dying was expensive. The bills, like Jimmy’s lies, are piling up. It’s only a matter of time before he’s forced to face a different type of death. 

Life Coach Charlotte Claybrooke built a successful second career guiding people out of grief, but the impending tenth anniversary of her own heart-wrenching tragedy sets her on a journey to find life among the dying.

A rock god, a telenovela star, a grandmother living her life-long dream, and a young tech genius round out this group of strangers facing death together. But when tragedy strikes, their bond is shattered. Lies and fraud surface, forcing the dying to come together to save someone’s life.

 Mountain Melodies (2019)
by Elizabeth Solazzo 

Dr. Katie Cook is beginning her medical practice in a small town at the base of Clinch Mountain, TN, at the turn of the 21st century. Her confidence has been shaken from the break-up of a romantic relationship, her mother’s disappointment in her, as well as a stinging rejection from the hospital where she completed her residency. She is trying to carve out an independent life for herself in these starkly beautiful but fragile mountains when circumstances force her to face her deepest fears of combining a successful career with a family to love.

Lovey Lephew, a strong woman about to celebrate 100 years of wisdom gained from a life of unimaginable heartbreak in the dark hollows of this lonely, poverty-ridden Appalachian mountain, helps Katie manage her anxiety and take the necessary risks toward a full life.

As the women band together to protect their homes from a gang of drug dealers using the forested land for cover, Lovey shares a long-buried secret that will change both their lives forever.

 The Lockhart Women (She Writes Press 2021)
by Mary Camarillo 

Brenda Lockhart’s convinced she’s settled for less by marrying Frank, a postal employee. Her family’s already living beyond its means when Frank announces he’s leaving Brenda for an older and (in Brenda’s judgmental opinion) less attractive co-worker. Frank drops this bombshell on the night of the OJ Simpson slow-speed chase through Southern California.

Brenda’s never “had to work” outside the home. She believes her value is based on how she looks and dresses, where she lives and what she drives. After Frank leaves, instead of trying to find a job, she becomes addicted to the Simpson trial, numbing herself with chardonnay and revenge sex. As Brenda struggles to recover from her drinking habit and adjusts to a new life in a lower-income neighborhood, she lands a job she’s not remotely qualified for. But Brenda is determined to turn over a new leaf, keep the job, learn new skills and be a better example to her daughters.

 Absolution (SparkPress 2020)
by Regina Buttner 

When small-town Jeanie Flanagan goes off to college in the city, she’s woefully unprepared to fend off the advances of a predatory professor who drugs and rapes her.

Jeanie thinks she was to blame for the assault, and she’ll do anything to keep her conservative Catholic family from finding out about the resulting pregnancy, as well as what she did to conceal it. She drops out of school, moves away and marries the first decent guy she meets in the desperate hope that devoting herself to marriage and motherhood will somehow absolve her from the “sins” of her past.

She vows to keep the assault a secret from her new husband, Greg, but evidence of her previous pregnancy eventually surfaces. When she confesses the details of that drunken night with her married professor, Greg’s pristine image of her is blown. As his shock deepens into violence and emotional abuse, Jeanie realizes she must finally confront the trauma in her past and find the courage to save herself from a marriage that is threatening to destroy her.

 Unholy Bonds (2014)
by Leslie Lynch 

Pilot Lannis Parker has triumphed over her past — or so she thinks. She has faced her rapist, dredged up the courage to bring him to trial, and is relieved to see Robert Davis imprisoned. But the closure remains elusive. Resurrected memories invade her life and threaten to splinter her relationships with those she loves most, including Ben, her new husband. Lannis finds she’s as much a prisoner as Davis, shackled by fear and inextricably bound to him through his crime. 

Cracks appear in her fledgling marriage, and Lannis becomes desperate to repair the underlying cause. She gradually realizes that healing will come only when she acknowledges Davis’s humanity — not a popular notion, but one she increasingly understands as essential. In a bold move, Lannis meets with Davis in prison and challenges him to recognize her humanity. Freed from memory’s sway, Lannis leaves history where it belongs, in the past, and embraces a future underpinned not by fear, but by courage.