The best novels about struggling women turning their lives around

Who am I?

I’ve always been drawn to stories about underdogs overcoming adversity in different ways. There were times growing up when I didn’t feel like I fit in with my peers, and I’m sure that’s contributed to this fascination. There’s just something so satisfying about a character who others think is down for the count getting back up and winning. As a writer, my women’s fiction stories often center around characters who are in need of personal growth. Overcoming challenges and choosing a truer-to-self path are common themes. That’s why the books on this list found their way to my heart.


I wrote...

These Numbered Days

By Anna E. Collins,

Book cover of These Numbered Days

What is my book about?

When Annie Wolff’s ex-husband dies, she breaks her self-imposed exile and returns home to Washington to make sure her kids are okay. Annie hasn’t seen Grace and Connor in eight years, and with her in-laws making a bid to adopt them, this is her last chance to set things right. She only hopes the depression that once sent her running will remain in check.

As she’s drawn back into the lives of her now-teenage kids, Annie also stumbles into the path of Wic Dubray—the handsome woodworker who leases her a room. Now, Annie must navigate old memories, hostile relatives, her wavering mental health, and a growing fondness for Wic for a chance to win back her children, her life, and maybe find love.

The books I picked & why

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Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

By Gail Honeyman,

Book cover of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Why this book?

The transformational journey of the main character, Eleanor, in this book is profound and very touching. Eleanor lives a predictable, lonely, atypical life that fulfills practical needs, but overlooks any emotional connections because she’s never felt she “needed” those. It’s only when she meets a fellow underdog at work and slowly comes out of her shell that her past wounds start to heal. Eleanor is a very unique person, and being in her head was eye-opening for me. Truly a story that will make you both laugh and cry, and that stayed with me for a long time.


Britt-Marie Was Here

By Fredrik Backman,

Book cover of Britt-Marie Was Here

Why this book?

I love how Backman is able to pinpoint human nature with very small means. Britt-Marie as an aging, thorny character jumps off the page and instantly made me sympathize with her. Following her journey from feeling stuck to walking out on her cheating husband and finding herself the unexpected caretaker of a recreation center, was so invigorating. Every step of the way, the softening of her edges as her authentic zest for life and interest in new acquaintances arise made the book unputdownable. I will read whatever Backman writes.


The Thorn Birds

By Colleen McCullough,

Book cover of The Thorn Birds

Why this book?

I love an epic family saga, and this book has it all—sweeping Australian countryside, forbidden love, family conflict, and, most of all, a struggling girl growing up to find herself, her voice, and her strength through whatever life throws her way. Meggie Cleary may not have been born with any advantages, but she makes the best of what she’s given and overcomes. Her metamorphosis from unfavored girl to strong woman deserves regular re-reads.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

By Stieg Larsson,

Book cover of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Why this book?

A neurodiverse heroine who fights bad men with her superior hacker skills? Lisbeth, the main character in this gripping police procedural/thriller (and the sequels), has lived a rough life that might have rendered most broken, but her determination and grit see her come out on top in a way that’s truly satisfying for anyone who’s ever wanted to “stick it to the man.” I could not turn the pages fast enough.


What Alice Forgot

By Liane Moriarty,

Book cover of What Alice Forgot

Why this book?

I love an unreliable narrator, and what’s more unreliable than a woman who has lost her memory? Liane Moriarty is masterful in giving the reader just enough information to follow along in the mystery with Alice as she tries to puzzle together what’s happened to her life in the ten years she’s “lost.” The story is thought-provoking in the best way, forcing the reader to think about how we all sometimes get stuck in a rut that might lead to a place we never really felt we chose. It made me wonder what me ten years ago would think if she suddenly woke up in my life today.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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