The best books with female protagonists from dysfunctional families

Who am I?

As a female writer, I love digging into the minds of women characters, especially in light of their family circumstances. I think we can sometimes underestimate the importance of a strong, loving family unit in terms of personal development. But what’s amazing is how a person’s story can be redeemed even if they were raised in a less-than-ideal environment. Even though I got pretty lucky in the parent department, I know not a lot of people have. And I love showing others through fiction that despite hardships they’ve had to face along the way, they are still loved and still wanted by a God who knows them better than anyone.

I wrote...

A Violent Hope

By Ericka Clay,

Book cover of A Violent Hope

What is my book about?

Mack Reynolds is battling his demons. After years spent attempting to heal wounds from being abused as a child, he confronts the author of his nightmares-his uncle-leading to a catastrophic decision and permanently sealing his fate. As the reality of Mack’s decision unfolds, his wife and daughter live life in a void, falling into addictions and assessing their pain through ways that only force them farther apart. It’s not until Mack’s mother, Rochelle, can confront her past, that Natalie and Wren can receive the guidance they both desperately need. But is it too late?

Told through the lives of the three women touched by Mack’s struggle, A Violent Hope takes a deeper look into the human heart and the God who repeatedly heals all wounds. 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Glass Castle

By Jeannette Walls,

Book cover of The Glass Castle

Why this book?

This book got lodged into my soul the day I read it. Here’s a girl with well-meaning yet destructive parents, and the belief she has in them, her father especially, is so heartbreaking. Have you ever loved someone who can’t stop letting you down? Then this book is a must-read.

Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir

By Donna M. Johnson,

Book cover of Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir

Why this book?

Donna Johnson grew up as a follower of David Terrell, a big tent revivalist in the 1960s and 1970s. As a former atheist, the book spoke to me because it reminded me of why I was once reluctant to follow Jesus. It captures the way man twists God’s Word for his own purposes, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Yet Johnson reminds us that love ultimately heals all wounds.

The Less People Know About Us: A Mystery of Betrayal, Family Secrets, and Stolen Identity

By Axton Betz-Hamilton,

Book cover of The Less People Know About Us: A Mystery of Betrayal, Family Secrets, and Stolen Identity

Why this book?

This book hooked me from the get-go. Axton Betz-Hamilton is raised by two parents who are the victims of stolen identities. She lives in a world of paranoia fostered by this incident and watches as the two people she’s closest to begin to turn on each other. Years later, Axton discovers she’s also the victim of identity theft and the journey she takes to figure out why is a nail-biter!

Rosie Colored Glasses

By Brianna Wolfson,

Book cover of Rosie Colored Glasses

Why this book?

I’m recommending this book because it made me cry, and I don’t cry. The warped triangle between two divorced parents and their daughter is tragic enough, but what really stirred me was the way Willow so fiercely wants to live life with her “fun” mom, not really understanding that not everything in life is as it seems.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

By Maria Semple,

Book cover of Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Why this book?

Bernadette is technically from a dysfunctional family but that dysfunction is mostly centered around her. She’s an incredibly intelligent recluse who mysteriously leaves her daughter and husband after a school fundraiser goes south. I could relate to Bernadette’s paranoia and the way fear can rear its ugly head if you’re not careful.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in poverty, bipolar disorder, and secrets?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about poverty, bipolar disorder, and secrets.

Poverty Explore 42 books about poverty
Bipolar Disorder Explore 24 books about bipolar disorder
Secrets Explore 106 books about secrets

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Memory Palace, Olive Kitteridge, and A Gentleman in Moscow if you like this list.