The Bossy Bookworm
Review of The Change by Kristen Miller
The Change explores the power of menopausal women and the poignant strength of friendship; supplies satisfying revenge fantasies and camp; and winds it all through our middle-aged heroines' satisfying solving of a disturbing set of mysteries.
“Why do you think women are designed to outlive men? Why do we keep going for thirty years after our bodies can no longer reproduce? Do you think nature meant for those years to be useless? No, of course not. Our lives are designed to have three parts. The first is education. The second, creation. And in part three, we put our experience to use and protect those who are weaker.”
In Kristen Miller's novel The Change, set in Mattauk, Long Island, three women cope with various challenges surrounding aging, change, and unexpected new beginnings.
Nessa's husband has died, and her twin daughters have left for college. The former nurse is coping with loneliness--but then she begins hearing voices like her grandmother once did. They're making insistent suggestions about what she should do with her life, and Nessa realizes they're coming from the dead.
Harriett's career and marriage have fallen apart, but she's also undergone an incredible metamorphosis she can't ignore--and her abilities are overwhelming to anyone who was expecting her to stay quiet and contained.
Jo has battled with her weight and struggled with her body image her whole life. She has a loving husband and a wonderful young daughter she adores. When she is terribly wronged at work and her career is cut short, she realizes that her hot flashes can be channeled into power, and she reinvents herself while exploring her dramatic strength and the potentially useful fuel of her fury.
Nessa, Jo, and Harriet work together and use their newfound abilities to try to solve the mystery of a missing girl, along the way uncovering dark, disturbing patterns of abusive power and shining a light on the horrifically effective shields provided by money and privilege.
The tone of The Change is largely campy, as middle-aged women heroines unite against the book's sometimes caricature-like, purely evil bad guys by using their new-found fantastical powers. The revenge-fantasy element is particularly satisfying.
But what I loved most about The Change was the unapologetic embracing of the frequently fraught menopausal stage of life. Miller allows the frequently dreaded and bemoaned middle-aged shifts and changes to lead her female characters to realize their terrific strengths. Separately they're formidable, but together, they build a collective power that is the community's only hope to right terrible, horrible, longstanding wrongs.
I received a prepublication digital edition of this book courtesy of William Morrow and NetGalley.
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
If you like books about strong women searching for missing girls, you might also like the book Before She Disappeared, although the tone of that book is very different from this one.
For purely campy mysteries, you might try Finlay Donovan Is Killing It and its sequel, Finlay Donovan Knocks 'Em Dead.