The novel I’m currently shopping around to literary agents is best described as women’s fiction, a genre I haven’t read as widely as I should. I’m working (well, it’s fun, really) to remedy that. “What is women’s fiction? you ask. “Don’t you mean romance novels?”
Women’s fiction may contain romantic elements, as can sci-fi, fantasy, horror–just about any genre you can name. But the central focus of women’s fiction is women’s personal growth, transformation, and relationships–often family relationships or friendships. There is not necessarily a “happy-ever-after” ending, but there will be a life-affirming message in there somewhere. Chick lit fits nicely into this category but, thank goodness, the protagonist need not be young, chic, and living in NYC for a novel to qualify as women’s literature.
Jennifer Weiner’s name comes up on several lists of recommended authors of women’s fiction. This is the first of her novels I’ve read, but it won’t be the last. Weiner’s protagonist is a very sympathetic character–mother of a difficult child, wife of an indifferent husband, daughter of a helpless mother and a father with dementia, and author of a wildly popular blog. I squirmed and winced and even teared up a bit as I watched her life unravel due to her addiction to painkillers. Weiner gives us an insiders view of rehab–very gritty and frustrating. Though the subject matter is grim, Weiner writes with humor and touching insight. Read this!