“Tender Morsels” by Margo Lanagan

Recommended to me by: Meloukhia

This is a fairy tale, but no child’s story. It starts with incest and pregnancy and abortion, and continues with gang rape. Then Liga is magically placed in a world that matches her heart’s desire, peaceful and safe.

While examining the consequences of assault and the consequences of avoiding […]

“Alchemy of Illness” by Kat Duff

Subtitle: A woman explores the transforming – and, paradoxically, healing – experience of being ill

Recommended to me by: a client

Alchemists strive to turn lead into gold by heating it alone in a sealed container, a crucible. In the crucible of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Kat Duff turned inward and found healing in the […]

“The Girls Come Marching Home” by Kirsten Holmstedt

Subtitle: Stories of Women Warriors Returning from the War in Iraq

Recommended to me by: A client.

I learned so much from these detailed descriptions of nearly 20 women soldiers, their deployments, and their returns to the US. What it’s like to be a soldier in a modern war. What it’s like in the […]

“The Armless Maiden” edited by Terri Windling

Subtitle: And Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors

This is an anthology of fairy tales retold for adults, with the scary bits left in, and also the bits about resilience and survival. Yes, her father cut off her arms, but then the armless maiden rescues herself and her child through quick wits as well as […]

“CrowHeart” by Keelin Anderson

CROWHEART: becoming unwounded, a memoir of transformation

Recommended to me by: Keelin Anderson

To tell her story of healing from incest and emotional abuse, Keelin Anderson weaves together daily narrative, fiction, quotes, tarot readings, and dreams, all in present tense.

As I read, I saw places where our paths have overlapped, and places where […]

“Leaving the Saints” by Martha Beck

Subtitle: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith

Recommended to me by: Reading Martha Beck’s older books

I first read this years ago and loved it. I came back to it while writing a (forthcoming) article about spiritual abuse and faith. Since I last read it, I read her newer book “Steering […]

“The Jade Peony” by Wayson Choy

Recommended to me by: atdelphi

This novel is an intricate work of art, assembled from one precise detail after another, illuminating the lives of a Chinese family of immigrants to Vancouver, B.C. in the 1930s and early 40s.

The story is told in three sections, from the viewpoints of three children. First the girl, […]

“The Necessary Beggar” by Susan Palwick

Recommended to me by: Loved Susan Palwick’s first book Flying in Place

The Necessary Beggar begins with a flurry of long hyphenated names and fantastical pronouncements. “It’s an allegory,” I told myself, and kept reading. The story soon descends into grimness at a US internment camp, but does not lose its fairy tale tone. […]

“Voices from the Inside” by David A. Karp and Gretchen E. Sisson

Subtitle: Readings on the experiences of mental illness

I found this book because I was curious about Caroline Knapp’s writing after reading Gail Caldwell’s memoir about their friendship, and I read it because I wanted to learn about mental illness without its stereotype of causing violence. In fact, [v]iolence is not a symptom of […]

“Torch” by Cheryl Strayed

Recommended to me by: Willamette Writers Portland

In this novel, a rural Minnesota family reels from the mother’s cancer diagnosis. We see Theresa, only 38, and her partner and children grappling with her illness.

I loved the finely detailed setting. The trees, the bears, the snow, and the routinely-traveled distances all bring rural Minnesota […]