Underrated fiction reads that aren’t talked about enough.
As a woman, I’ve always loved women-led stories.
“Women in fiction written by male writers are obsessed with romance. Often, to the extent they’re prepared to give up everything they’d worked for, only for the sake of writing their love story. Such descriptions make most female readers cringe.”
In this post, I’ve compiled three incredible but underrated fiction reads that are led by women and tell authentic stories that resonated with me. I’m sure will be loved by all women around the world.
Before we dive in, know that none of the books listed here are easy to read. In fact, some are so thought-provoking, they will push you to unlearn generational traumas you may have unknowingly internalized.
Read with care, and if you can go past the first hurdle, you’re in for an amazing adventure that will leave its mark on you long after the last page is turned.
(Note: The links mentioned in this article are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase these books through these links, it will help me earn a small amount of money — at no extra cost to you. Thanks!)
1. The Hush by Sara Foster
Genre: Sci-fi/Dystopian thriller.
25 years after the Covid 19 pandemic rocked the world, humanity is at risk again.
In Great Britain, perfectly healthy babies who showed no signs of disease during the pregnancy are born dead. Termed as Inter-Partum X, or IPX, this wave of a new pandemic takes the world by storm. There’s a major threat to humanity’s survival as more and more babies end up dead. Soon, couples stop attempting to get pregnant, and every woman of child-bearing age suddenly finds her movements monitored.
The Hush is the story of Emma and her teenage daughter Lainey, who wakes up one day to find that her summer affair over the holidays has left her pregnant.
In this new world where pregnant women are kept under surveillance, there’s a shocking dearth of teenage mothers. Lainey’s own friend disappeared a few months ago after she announced she was pregnant. And now, there’s a YouTube video by an anonymous singer who claims that the government is kidnapping teenage moms and performing strange experiments on them to test if they can find a cure for IPX.
But is a scandal of such large proportions possible? As the government breaks up with internal strife, the country is thrown into survival mode. Emma has to fight tooth and nail to save Lainey, who’s now at risk of being taken away forever for the life that’s growing inside of her.
The two women turn to Geraldine, Emma’s mother, and together, the trio starts one of the most ambitious missions in the history of the country to take down the people in power and demand justice for the thousands of women whose lives have been ruined by the new pandemic.
Why you need to read the book
This is a brilliant, fast-paced thriller that will constantly keep you guessing as to what twist might come up next. The final reveal is incredible, and the way the story leads up to it will make you gape in wonder.
This is a thriller led by multiple generations of women and is one of the most powerful and moving books I read in 2022.
2. Queen of Dreams by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Genre: Magical realism/Urban fantasy.
Rakhi is a single mother, a struggling artist, and a cafe-owner living in Northern California. Every day, she wakes up trying to make sense of her life.
She has always been close to her mother, but her feelings now have evolved to something darker and more viscid. Her mother was an enigma in her childhood. Now, Rakhi learns that she is a dream interpreter. She can see the dreams of other people and help them navigate their fears and insecurities.
While a noble profession, Rakhi always envies how her mother can touch lives simply by going to sleep each night, while she herself is average in all senses of the word. Divorced, struggling with her art and business, and trying to form a bond with her own daughter, Rakhi feels disconnected from her mother and blames her for not inheriting this precious gift of reading dreams.
The author brilliantly chronicles the angst-ridden thoughts that plague Rakhi and surprises us with observations on human emotions. The writing is beautiful and evocative, leaving you feeling emotions you didn’t even know you had the headspace for.
Why you need to read the book
This book explores the beautiful bond that exists between a mother and daughter. About how, no matter how much she gives, a mother always feels her child deserves more. And now, no matter how dedicated the mother is, a daughter always feels betrayed, as if her mother owed her something more.
And on both sides of the relationship, there’s the burden of expectations: of how one expects the other to be selfless, while justifying their own need for selfishness.
Seeing the same emotions I have struggled with all my life portrayed so beautifully in the minds of the characters gave me much-needed validation that it’s okay to feel this way. The book gave me tools to communicate better with my mother — tools I wasn’t expecting in a fiction novel about a woman who can read the dreams of other people.
3. The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker
Genre: Crime thriller.
The book begins with Chrissie, an 8-year-old girl murdering Stephen, a 2-year-old boy.
And just like that, Chrissie has a secret no one else knows. As their whole locality is thrown into disarray, and the police try and fail to find out who committed the crime, Chrissie finds herself flourishing.
Her play-mates are in tears and the adults are overly protective of their kids, but Chrissie walks around like the best, most talented person around: someone who can make things and people disappear at her will, and no one will ever find out.
Twenty years later, Chrissie is no longer the confident, all-powerful child. Living under a changed name, she has traded the casual brutality of her childhood for the fear that comes from living a double life.
She no longer carries around a secret, but a burden that weighs her down and threatens to take away all that she holds dear.
This was a difficult book to get into. No matter how seasoned a reader you are, there’s always something deeply troubling about getting into the mind of a child killer, even if the said killer is just eight years old.
Why you need to read the book
On its surface, the book is crime fiction. But it takes a look into what happens when people who aren’t ready to have children decide to become parents. When adults use children as pawns in their sordid games of power, how does it impact the child?
And when all else is taken away from the world of a child, what do they do to claim even a tiny fraction of parental love and adoration their friends seem to have in so much abundance?
The book made me cry. And even though I knew how it would end, I just couldn’t stop reading because of how well-written and deeply thought-provoking it was.
The characters seem to fit in right with your life, and you want to keep reading because you can’t live without knowing what happens to them and how they deal with it.
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