Women Within by Anne Leigh Parrish is the story of three women whose lives crisscross at a retirement home in a lyrical tale that examines a life well lived.
Constance is a retired professor and staunch feminist living out the end of her life at the Lindell Retirement Home. As she examines her life’s ups and downs, she connects with Eunice. Eunice has been a bit unlucky in love, but continues to enjoy her solitary life as a caregiver putting others first. The newest addition to the Lindell staff is the ungainly Sam, who finds solace in poetry and tiny beautiful things that offset a rather unfortunate childhood. The book is essentially divided in three, and follows each of the three’s trials and tribulations.
The writing is beautiful and often becomes lyrical and poetic. Each of the women have distinct voices and characterization that their section wonderfully layers through their POV. Constance’s desire to be independent and strong, but without giving in, and marrying men who look down upon her, Eunice’s own goal of finding a worthwhile partner, and Sam’s fitting desire to find not only self-worth, but a place she fits in.—all of whom find some solace in Lindell, despite suffering some setbacks.
This is a book about experiences and the uncertain journey of life. None of the women wind up where they truly wanted to be. Painful mistakes never deter Constance, Eunice, or Sam from striving to finding their own happiness and meaning. Much of their present circumstances came about due to decisions fleshed out in the backstories. On top of which, a few of the characters have surprising connections and secrets that add a delicious layer on top of the already fantastic story.
The summary suggested the themes of reproductive rights and feminism would be at the fore of this story. While both are important aspects of the story, none are fully realized or expanded upon satisfactorily. Sam, for instance, grew up the product of rape, only to learn her mother was ashamed and lied about the whole ordeal. Delving deeper into Sam’s upbringing and ramifications of such mental abuse would have added a nice layer to the story.
Women Within is an intricate and engaging examination of three women connecting in an unlikely situation with flowing prose, stellar characterization, and vivid scene setting in a small package that’s sure to stick with you long after the last page.
Black Rose Writing
Anne Leigh Parrish