Book recommendation please: Women on the move
September 26, 2017 9:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for books about women without children who have quit their jobs and made a big life move. Bonus points if they live unconventionally (on a boat, tiny house) or in a new country. Love stories optional.

Since I can't yet read tales of women and their move to Crone Island, I'm looking for inspirational fiction or nonfiction about women who have gone slightly off their intended path, stepped off the relationship escalator, or abandoned their career trajectory.

I'm especially curious about their process (what did they do with their art?) and the interpersonal relationships between family and friends.

While I enjoyed The White Masai by Corinne Hofmann, her journey was centred around a man and she has a daughter.

Sort of, but not really:
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
posted by nathaole to Writing & Language (24 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby was brilliant.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:12 AM on September 26, 2017

Woodswoman by Anne LaBastille
posted by Sassyfras at 10:20 AM on September 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
posted by belladonna at 10:24 AM on September 26, 2017

Extremely light fiction, but a lot of fun: Still Life with Elephant.
posted by tully_monster at 10:27 AM on September 26, 2017

For fiction, I liked Idra Novey's Ways to Disappear.
posted by ferret branca at 10:27 AM on September 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nell Zink's Mislaid may or may not qualify. I'm not sure how inspirational it is, but it's damned unconventional.
posted by uberchet at 10:36 AM on September 26, 2017

I just recommended elsewhere Hermione Lee's biography of Edith Wharton, who was born into a stiflingly dull upper-class New York family, married suitably, then jumped the fence and became a novelist. She never had children and didn't remarry after her husband's early death.
posted by praemunire at 10:39 AM on September 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

(Oh, and she moved to France, where she was a relief organizer during WWI!)
posted by praemunire at 10:40 AM on September 26, 2017

I'm not sure if The Big Tiny would fit. I can't remember if the author quit her job. But she decided to change her life due to illness and get rid of most of her possessions. This was one of the first tiny house books, if the not the first.
posted by FencingGal at 10:41 AM on September 26, 2017

Agatha Christie's The Man in the Brown Suit is a fun mystery where Anne, a young woman recently orphaned, decides to go on an adventure to figure out a mystery rather than settle for some old man who thinks she has a "neat little waist".
posted by jillithd at 10:53 AM on September 26, 2017

Nonfiction, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:54 AM on September 26, 2017

extra virgin by annie hawes, nonfiction
posted by poffin boffin at 10:59 AM on September 26, 2017

I don't have a specific book to recommend, but a biography of Julia Child would certainly fit the bill.
posted by hydra77 at 11:01 AM on September 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Dead Ladies Project by Jessa Crispin (aka the Bookslut). Highly recommended.
posted by cushie at 11:21 AM on September 26, 2017

Anne McCaffrey's Nerilka is also about a young woman that abandons her path of being a just another daughter in a big family to help to save her world when there is a health pandemic. (ending has kids, but it is more of a footnote at the end of the story.)
posted by jillithd at 11:24 AM on September 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

maybe Tales of the City - first book is very much about this
posted by crocomancer at 11:54 AM on September 26, 2017

Addendum to my Agatha Christie suggestion: Anne, the main character, does have a kid at the end, but it is a footnote of the story. Her traveling buddy is a mid-30s woman who I don't believe has kids at all (and leaves her husband at home) and they have a riotous good time being sleuthy together that I think you'd enjoy reading.

Addendum to my Anne McCaffrey suggestion: Nerilka is a novella that coincides with the longer novel Moreta where a tiny part involves Moreta visiting her kid who she doesn't know very well and is OK with that as she just was not meant to be a mother and is too busy saving the world and riding her dragon. (I think maybe the author had to stuff that bit in there for "the era" it was written.) But the Moreta book isn't much about the transition period that it looks like you are looking for. She is definitely kicking ass, taking names, and defying assumptions throughout the book, though.
posted by jillithd at 12:02 PM on September 26, 2017

Sold to the Ladies! Or, the Incredible but True Adventures of Three Girls on a Barge by Dorothy A. Bennett. Here's an article about the author and her story.
posted by Carouselle at 5:00 PM on September 26, 2017

Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. There's a guy involved in her decision to go off the beaten path, but the adventure lasts much longer than the guy.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:23 PM on September 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is kind of ridiculous, but Nora Roberts Angels Fall was a big piece of the lead-up to me ditching a long-time job, moving to the big city, and going to library school. I don't normally read mystery/romance (straight mystery is my jam) but a friend kept encouraging me to read it when I was very unhappy with my life and looking for an excuse to change it up. I ended up happily re-rooted and re-careered in the big city (nearly ten year later now!), but still occasionally fantasize about moving from town to town, living in a series of tiny unconventional apartments, and moving when things get too routine. And the mystery isn't bad, either.
posted by LibraryScientist at 7:48 PM on September 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Susan Duncan's "Salvation Creek" memoir books sound like they meets your criteria.
posted by netsirk at 3:42 PM on September 27, 2017

Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman will wash the taste of Eat, Pray, Love out of your mouth. She sold up everything and set out at the age of 48.

A lovely book, The Curve of Time by M Wylie Blanchet. Back in the 1930s, a recent widow packed her kids in a boat and sailed the coast of British Columbia. So, five kids, but a very unusual choice at the time.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:12 AM on September 28, 2017

I wasn't sure if you were looking for fiction or non-fiction, but when you said "boat" I immediately thought of a fairly light novel by Katie Fforde called Life Skills, in which a young woman ditches her fiancé and takes a job as a cook on a hotel boat. The same author also wrote A Summer at Sea, although I haven't read that one.

You might also enjoy books by Eva Ibbotson - I really enjoyed A Company of Swans and A Countess Below Stairs.

If you're looking for non-fiction, you might be interested in In the Land of the Grasshopper Song, written by two women who took jobs as field matrons in tribal communities in northern California in 1908.
posted by kristi at 10:30 AM on September 29, 2017

Currently reading The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald .
posted by pimli at 7:51 PM on October 1, 2017

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