The best stories about complicated relationships between fascinating women

Michelle Wildgen Author Of Wine People
By Michelle Wildgen

Who am I?

Maybe it’s because I come from a family that expresses conflict, shall we say, indirectly, but nothing fascinates me the way relationships do. What do we desire, what do we offer? And how much more do we care about friendships and family bonds than world peace? I also love stories about passions we pursue professionally, and ever since I fell in love with the food and wine world, that’s the world I’ve written about and the world in which my characters’ intense relationships play out. Real drama plays out over a drink or at a dinner table, and of course a glass of wine only unleashes a little more.

I wrote...

Wine People

By Michelle Wildgen,

Book cover of Wine People

What is my book about?

Wine People is about the transformative relationship between two women working in the male-dominated wine-importing industry. Wren is an outsider who worked her way into the wine world, and Thessaly was born into it, but they are both passionate about wine. When their company is engulfed in a succession drama, they become rivals and then cautious allies. There’s European travel, incredible food and wine, workplace ambition and backstabbing, and two young women who figure out who they want to be—and if each can help the other become that person.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Friend Who Got Away: Twenty Women's True Life Tales of Friendships That Blew Up, Burned Out or Faded Away

Why did I love this book?

I know I have those lost friendships I still wonder about—we worked together, lived together, traveled to beach towns together, drank tequila together! We went to very bad bars and made very bad decisions together! How’d we lose touch?and thank God these brilliant writers do too.

Schappell and Offill gather a cocktail party’s worth of lost platonic loves, reminding me that I’m not alone and giving meaningful thought to the monumental importance of friendship and the pain of losing it.

By Jenny Offill (editor), Elissa Schappell (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Friend Who Got Away as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Losing a friend can be as painful and as agonizing as a divorce or the end of a love affair, yet it is rarely written about or even discussed. THE FRIEND WHO GOT AWAY is the first book to address this near-universal experience, bringing together the brave, eloquent voices of writers like Francine Prose, Katie Roiphe, Dorothy Allison, Elizabeth Strout, Ann Hood, Diana Abu Jabar, Vivian Gornick, Helen Schulman, and many others. Some write of friends who have drifted away, others of sudden breakups that took them by surprise. Some even celebrate their liberation from unhealthy or destructive relationships. Yet…

After Birth

By Elisa Albert,

Book cover of After Birth

Why did I love this book?

I’m a little obsessed with the sheer ferocity with which Elisa Albert writes the world, and when I this short, sharp novel the phrase that stuck in my head was, “This is all teeth.” And boy, do I mean that in a good way.

Ari Walker is still trying to get her footing after the birth of her baby when Mina, a former cult musician, moves to town and the two bond hard. I still think about Albert’s description of Mina, her round cheeks and her messy hair and the jarring realization that this woman is not affecting carelessness with standard beauty norms, but truly does not give a good goddamn. It’s about those people who are both alien and intimate and who make you more yourself. 

By Elisa Albert,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked After Birth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sometimes I'm with the baby and I think: you're my heart and my soul, and I would die for you. Other times I think: tiny moron, leave me the fuck alone

A year has passed since Ari gave birth and still she can't locate herself in her altered universe. Sleep-deprived, lonely and unprepared, she struggles through the strange, disjointed rhythms of her days and nights. Her own mother long dead and her girlhood friendships faded, she is a woman in need. When Mina - older, alone, pregnant - moves to town, Ari sees hope of a comrade-in-arms. Perhaps the hostile…

Cat's Eye

By Margaret Atwood,

Book cover of Cat's Eye

Why did I love this book?

This was the first novel I encountered that captured the long half-life of an adolescent friendship that never leaves you, a first love that was both toxic and transformative.

Atwood allows the ripple effect of Elaine’s friendship with Cordelia to echo throughout her adulthood, her painting career, her marriage. Maybe it stuck with me because I hadn’t realized you could write about the good and the bad in one character and both could be so gripping, or because of the way Atwood captures the moment when another girl’s entire existence is so intoxicatingher family and her home and her clothing and attitude—that you want to consume it whole.

And how devastating it is to see that girl’s power wane.

By Margaret Atwood,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Cat's Eye as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Elaine Risley, a painter, returns to Toronto to find herself overwhelmed by her past. Memories of childhood - unbearable betrayals and cruelties - surface relentlessly, forcing her to confront the spectre of Cordelia, once her best friend and tormentor, who has haunted her for forty years. 'Not since Graham Greene has a novelist captured so forcefully the relationship between school bully and victim...Atwood's games are played, exquisitely, by little girls' LISTENER An exceptional novel from the winner of the 2000 Booker Prize

Book cover of Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You

Why did I love this book?

What’s more fraught and intimate than friends? Sisters.   

Munro’s title story is about a relationship of extremes: sisters Char and Et can laugh over the darkest shit imaginable, and yet they also have certain psychic rooms they’ll never let the other into. Is this love or hostility? More happens in here than I can say, except that Char is the beautiful sister and Et the sharp-tongued, practical one, and an old flame returns and wreaks havoc.

It’s Munro, so there is sex, death, and betrayal, but delivered so obliquely you aren’t always sure what the characters deliberately did. Maybe that’s why this story enraptures me: it’s about the things you’ll never get to know, and I always think I'll figure it out this time.

By Alice Munro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A remarkable early collection of stories by Alice Munro, the bestselling author of Dear Life, and one of the greatest fiction writers of our time.

'Alice Munro's stories are miraculous'
Sunday Times

'No one else can - or should be allowed to - write like the great Alice Munro'
Julian Barnes

'She sets down the pains and pleasures of living in a spare, singing prose, not a word wasted'
Daily Telegraph

'Read not more than one of her stories a day, and allow them to work their spell: they are made to last'

'She's the most savage writer I've…

Book cover of Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?

Why did I love this book?

Is there no end to my obsession with adolescent friendship? Apparently not.

Adolescence is the moment when everything blossoms, collides, and explodes: Sils and Berie were inseparable and insufferable teenagers together (it’s okay, we all were) and Berie is looking back on the summer they were fifteen from her own flawed marriage years later.

They were just girls: smoking and drinking, leaving each other cottage cheese sandwiches after school, strumming guitars, cracking on Sils’s besotted, lunkhead boyfriend. Then why does it feel like such a lost paradise to Berie and to us? Because this is the moment you feel adult powers awaken, before you grasp the consequences of your power. Because no one is running the frog hospital. Because it’ll never be that vivid again.  

By Lorrie Moore,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Touches and dazzles and entertains. An enchanting novel." --The New York Times

In this moving, poignant novel by the bestselling author of Birds of America we share a grown woman’s bittersweet nostalgia for the wildness of her youth.
The summer Berie was fifteen, she and her best friend Sils had jobs at Storyland in upstate New York where Berie sold tickets to see the beautiful Sils portray Cinderella in a strapless evening gown. They spent their breaks smoking, joking, and gossiping. After work they followed their own reckless rules, teasing the fun out of small town life, sleeping in the…

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