The best books about strong women and the difficult choices mothers face

Why am I passionate about this?

I wrote this book to give my mother an alternate life. She was a mother at age fifteen, mother of five by twenty-seven, and a grandmother by thirty-three. Being a parent defined her life, but she did not enjoy motherhood and was very frank on the subject. Thanks, Universe is my way of giving Mom her freedom and even though she never read anything I wrote, I like to think she would have approved of Pauline and the choices she made.


I wrote...

Thanks, Universe

By Cheri Krueger,

Book cover of Thanks, Universe

What is my book about?

Wilma Azevedo’s rebellious daughter Pauline becomes a mother at fifteen. Deeply depressed, Pauline rejects her newborn and Wilma becomes more mother than grandmother to the baby she names Jewel. With her mother's blessing, eighteen-year-old Pauline accepts a job at a friend's estate in Portugal; she doesn't mention she plans to never return. As Wilma raises her granddaughter in California, free-spirit Pauline enjoys an exciting life with her found family in Europe.

Despite her best attempts to not be a mother to Jewel in any way, they develop a relationship over the years and Pauline learns to view her role as mother from fresh perspectives. When Pauline sees her chance to earn forgiveness, she is prepared to do whatever it takes for both of her families.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Thorn Birds

Cheri Krueger Why did I love this book?

I adore sweeping family sagas with strong women characters and with tragedy, romance, and heartache set in Australia, The Thorn Birds is a beautiful example of the genre.

Meggie is rebellious and headstrong and makes questionable choices, but we empathize and root for her. All the well-rounded characters each come with their own secrets that will keep you turning pages.

By Colleen McCullough,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Thorn Birds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A phenomenal worldwide bestseller since 1977 THE THORN BIRDS is a robust, romantic saga of three generations. It begins in the early years of this century when Paddy Cleary moves his wife and seven children to Drogheda, an Australian sheep station, owned by his autocratic and childless older sister. For more than half a century we follow their fates, particularly those of Meggie, the only Cleary daughter, and the one man she truly loves, Ralph de Bricassart - stunningly handsome, ambitious, and a priest. As background to the Cleary family's lives there is the land itself: relentless in its demands,…


Book cover of Gone With the Wind

Cheri Krueger Why did I love this book?

Scarlett O’Hara is the archetype of a strong woman who will do whatever it takes to achieve her goals.

She lies, cheats, steals, and lies some more and while readers may be aghast at her decisions, we can understand her motivations.

This book makes me question what choices I might make to survive similar circumstances. Even with its cringier elements, this is another sweeping family saga I love.

By Margaret Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Gone With the Wind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story of the tempestuous romance between Rhett Butler and Scarlet O'Hara is set amid the drama of the Civil War.


Book cover of Somewhere Out There

Cheri Krueger Why did I love this book?

A contemporary family saga, this book highlights the struggles of mothers and the difficult choices they face to keep their children safe.

A nature vs. nurture story that contains shocks and surprises and will bring you to tears. The structure is interesting as the reader knows more about what’s going on than the three main characters, creating suspense and tension.

By Amy Hatvany,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Somewhere Out There as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What happens when two sisters who were torn apart when their young mother abandoned them-and grew up in tragically different circumstances-reunite thirty-five years later to find her? For readers who love Jodi Picoult, acclaimed author Amy Hatvany fearlessly explores complex family issues in her gripping, provocative new novel.

Natalie Clark knew never to ask her sensitive adoptive mother questions about her past. She doesn't even know her birth mother's name-only that the young woman signed parental rights over to the state when Natalie was a baby. Now Natalie's own daughter must complete a family tree project for school, and Natalie…


Book cover of Before We Were Yours

Cheri Krueger Why did I love this book?

The decisions mothers are forced to make are often difficult, but it is terrifying to have those decisions taken from you.

When the five Foss children are scooped up by unscrupulous people under the guise of social services, the children’s best interests aren’t part of the discussion, and the repercussions are devastating to all.

Based on a horrific true story.

By Lisa Wingate,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Before We Were Yours as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT—Over two million copies sold! A New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller

“Poignant, engrossing.”—People • “Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power.”—Paula McLain

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage,…


Book cover of A Spool of Blue Thread

Cheri Krueger Why did I love this book?

If you enjoy ‘quieter’ family sagas, I recommend everything by Anne Tyler, but this book in particular resonates with me.

Abby Whitshank’s character blossoms and unfolds through the pages as she shows readers astonishing layers and unwavering strength. She is not who she seems at first glance and is absolutely the fierce, loyal, and loving mama any child wants on their side.

By Anne Tyler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Spool of Blue Thread as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2015**

**Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2015**

**Sunday Times bestseller**

'It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon...'

This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that day in July 1959. The whole family on the porch, relaxed, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before.

And yet this gathering is different. Abby and Red are getting older, and decisions must be made about how best to look after them and their beloved family home.…


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Wrightsville Beach

By Suzanne Goodwyn,

Book cover of Wrightsville Beach

Suzanne Goodwyn Author Of Wrightsville Beach

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing all my life, but was never able to find my voice until I had my daughters. It was for them I wrote “Wrightsville Beach”. I wanted to show them what a good relationship should look like and how their decisions make a difference in where they will go. I want my readers to relive that feeling of falling in love and to be sent in unexpected directions, as life so often does to us. I want you to enjoy it so much, you don’t want to put the book down until it’s finished and once you do, to sit and reflect on it, savoring the feeling it has left behind.

Suzanne's book list on smart women trying to figure it all out

What is my book about?

Two years ago, devastated by the sudden death of his older brother, Hank Atwater went on a drinking rampage that ended in his being arrested. Since then, he has been working to rebuild his reputation in his hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina, with little luck. But everything changes after a chance meeting with Jess Wade, a UNCW student studying to be a marine biologist. Hank and Jess feel connected to each other in a way neither has ever felt before.

But when Hank’s past leads to a frightful incident, it ends their relationship. Jess leaves to work on the beach…

Wrightsville Beach

By Suzanne Goodwyn,

What is this book about?

Two years ago, Hank Atwater made a terrible mistake. Devastated by the sudden death of his older brother, Rob, he went on a drinking rampage that ended in his being arrested for aggravated assault. Sober since then, he has been working to rebuild his reputation in his hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina, with little luck.

Working a dead-end delivery job, Hank uses surfing and running to deal with being ostracized as he waits for his probation to end. But everything changes after a chance meeting with Jess Wade, a UNCW student studying to be a marine biologist. Hank and Jess…


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