I’m delighted to be part of the book tour for Sheena Boekweg’s new novel A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions! This is a unique and immersive story that I really enjoyed reading!
About the Book:
Title: A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions
Author: Sheena Boekweg
Page Length: 352 pages
Publication Date: June 1, 2021
Publisher: Feiwel Friends
Genre: Young Adult, historical,
Synopsis: Behind every powerful man is a trained woman, and behind every trained woman is the Society. It started with tea parties and matchmaking, but is now a countrywide secret. Gossips pass messages in recipes, Spinsters train to fight, and women work together to grant safety to abused women and children. The Society is more than oaths—it is sisterhood and purpose.
In 1926, seventeen-year-old Elsie is dropped off in a new city with four other teenage girls. All of them have trained together since childhood to become the Wife of a powerful man. But when they learn that their next target is earmarked to become President, their mission becomes more than just an assignment; this is a chance at the most powerful position in the Society. All they have to do is make one man fall in love with them first.
Purchase Link: https://bookshop.org/a/11727/9781250770981
This is such a unique and interesting story about women, sisterhood, and knowing one’s worth. A secret sisterhood of women who use marriage to influence government and society, the Society recruits and trains women, sorting them into different roles that suit their temperament and talent. This story focuses on Elsie, who is competing with three other members of the Society to win the heart of a future president.
There’s a lot to love about this book, including the beautiful writing, the immersive story, the fascinating time period, and the strong themes of female empowerment and self-acceptance. The author’s writing style is wonderful, and I found myself highlighting many powerful and thought-provoking lines from the book. The writing pulls you in right from the start with an interesting story and an alternate world where women have more influence than expected.
I love the way that women are depicted throughout the story and the strong messages about self-worth and acceptance. Elsie and her friends are all shapes and sizes and colors and sexualities, and I love the diverse representation. Elsie and her friend, for example, are both plus-size, and they are both comfortable in their own skin. In a society that glamorizes thin women, it’s refreshing to see plus-size women loving the way they look. They see the beauty in and embrace their bodies, looks, intellect, and skill. I love all of the body and sexuality positivity! There are several touching moments where the women discuss their feelings about their bodies and sexualities, and their unflappable support of each other is one of my favorite parts of the novel.
America has a habit of missing out on brilliance because it doesn’t look the way it expects.
The story takes place in an alternate 1926 America, and women have a bit of behind-the-scenes power in the country. However, this understated influence is not enough for Elsie, who hates that she will never be considered an equal to and as important as her brother just because of her gender. Elsie wants change, and she wants the same opportunities that men have. I love Elsie’s growth throughout the story as she realizes her own worth, takes control of her future, and tries to invoke change. She is a strong woman who wants more than what the patriarchal society offers.
Elsie has a strong bond with two of the other women who are trying to win over the future president, which creates some competition. They don’t always act in each other’s best interests, and that causes a lot of friction. These well-rounded and dynamically developed women are not without faults, yet ultimately they share a strong connection. I also like that they each want different things for their lives. They are all on a journey of self-discovery, which could lead their lives in very different but equally significant directions. And that is the heart of the book – the idea that everyone is important. Everyone has worth.
Elsie, in particular, makes some mistakes and acts selfishly. She lets her ambition take precedence over her friendships, and she is sometimes guided by her passion and heart instead of her head. There are several times when she is lucky that she has understanding and forgiving friends. When Elsie starts to question the Society and her role in it, things change. Though she likes the mission of protecting and empowering women, she sees new ways to achieve her goals, which changes her relationships with her friends and family.
It wasn’t hard to keep secrets when no one finds your words worth reading.
Interspersed throughout the novel are poems written by Elsie. I love the inclusion of these poems and feel like they deepened my understanding of her character. Through her poetry, you see her truth – her fears, her scars, and her desires. Elsie is a gifted writer, another skill that would be commended if she were a man, but is sadly glossed over since she is a woman. On paper, Elsie is free with her thoughts, as she knows her words will never be discovered.
In addition to the great characters and messages, this a unique story with a fascinating secret society, spies, two budding romances, secrets, lies, manipulations, betrayals, treacherous plots, and more. But above all, this story is about sisterhood, empowerment, fighting for what you believe in, and the message that everyone has worth. I’m so thankful to Sheena Boekweg, Turn the Page Tours, and the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
Forgiveness was our first lesson. Being forgotten was the second.
But no matter how scared, words and women burn so brightly in a man’s fire.
I need my life and my brain to matter more than my brother’s will.
My name mattered. My thoughts mattered. And I could never forget that.
I owed it to the girls who came after me to do everything in my power to make sure their lives mattered.
There are many lives better than being a footnote in someone else’s history.
About the Author:
Sheena Boekweg grew up reading books with tree branches peeking over her shoulder. Her novels Glitch Kingdom and A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions, both with Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, feature fat positive girls with ambitions, love stories, and sometimes battle axes. She’s a contributor to Every Body Shines, a fat-positive anthology publishing May 2021 with Bloomsbury, and is an alumni of the 2015 Pitch Wars Program and was a Pitch Wars mentor in 2017, 2018, and currently in 2020. Sheena believes that beauty is intrinsic and worth is unquestionable, and thinks you can’t solve all problems with food, but it will always help.
She is well loved by a tall man with a great beard, her three kids, and the world’s most spoiled puppy. Visit her online at boekwegbooks.com, or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SheenaBoekweg. She’s represented by Jessica Sinsheimer at Context Literary.