Tuesday, September 5, 2023

The Sunshine Girls

The Sunshine Girls
  The Sunshine Girls
Author:  Molly Fader
Publication Information:  Graydon  House. 2022. 368 pages.
ISBN:  1335453482 / 978-1335453488

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "There were too many lilies."

Favorite Quote:  "Friends offered something to each other, filled in gaps and holes where the other was missing something."

Per the author's note, the experiences in this book reflect those of her mother "as a nursing school student in the 1960s. Change was simmering all around the US at the time, but nursing school in many ways remained fixed in old and sometimes sexist traditions. Ironically, at the same time, nursing was one of the few career paths, and opportunities for financial independence, easily accessible to women... nursing school for many women was a crash course in physical intimacy that had nothing to do with sex. It also presented young women with life-or-death decisions that no amount of schooling could prepare them for."

This is the historical context and personal connection on which this book is based. 

Molly Fader's lsat book The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season deals with serious issues of abuse in a relationship and substance abuse. However, it does so in the context of a heartwarming, small town, feel good story. In the blog tour for that book, the author gave a peek into this one! This book is a very different story about women, friendships, and choices. Yet, the baseline theme outlined in the author's own words remains. "Women out of options, out of pride, trying SO HARD to do the next thing."

Betty Kay and Kitty are an unlikely pair. "Lots of girls set up their entire lives within the boundaries of what other people said they were capable of, and they were just happy with what they had and never asked for more." Yet, in their own ways, BettyKay and Kitty want more. Betty Kay is leaving family expectation and her small town to pursue a bigger dream. Kitty is fashionable and cosmopolitan, but her her own secrets. They are thrown together as roommates at nursing school in Greensboro Iowa. Initially wary of each other, they find friendship. 

A tragedy becomes a defining moment in both their lives. Their paths diverge. Yet, the friendship survives, unbeknownst to their families. The book begins with BettyKay's death and Kitty's arrival at her funeral. BettyKay's daughters Clara and Abbie are shocked - shock they don't need as they struggle with their mother's death and their own estrangement.

Over the course of a few days, stories are told and secrets are revealed. The bonds of friendship and the sacrifices make for a compelling emotional story. What, to me, is even more interesting, the depiction of the nursing schools in the 1960s. The story of sexism, racism, and the demands on these young women is a fascinating snapshot of history.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.