"Quirky: adolescent angst meets metaphysics, screwball-comedy trysts with the underpinnings of reality. It's funny and tender; it's a chance to see Scarlett O'Hara and Emma Bovary off duty." Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife
The Heroinesby Eileen Favorite
Although a true lover of books, Anne-Marie Entwhistle prefers not to read to her spirited daughter, Penny, especially from the likes of Madame Bovary, Gone With the Wind, or The Scarlet Letter. These novels, devoted to the lives of the Heroines that make them so irresistible, have a way of hitting too close to home well, to the Homestead/i>/i>/i>
Although a true lover of books, Anne-Marie Entwhistle prefers not to read to her spirited daughter, Penny, especially from the likes of Madame Bovary, Gone With the Wind, or The Scarlet Letter. These novels, devoted to the lives of the Heroines that make them so irresistible, have a way of hitting too close to home well, to the Homestead actually, where Anne-Marie runs the quaint family-owned bed and breakfast.
In this enchanting debut novel, Penny and her mother encounter great women from classic works of literature who make the Homestead their destination of choice just as the plots of their tumultuous, unforgettable stories begin to unravel. They appear at all hours of the day and in all manners of distress. A lovesick Madame Bovary languishes in their hammock after Rodolphe has abandoned her, and Scarlett O'Hara's emotions are not easily tempered by tea and eiderdowns. These visitors long for comfort, consolation, and sometimes for more attention than the adolescent Penny wants her mother to give.
Knowing that to interfere with their stories would cause mayhem in literature, Anne-Marie does her best to make each Heroine feel at home, with a roof over her head and a shoulder to cry on. But when Penny begins to feel overshadowed by her mother's indulgence of each and every Heroine, havoc ensues, and the thirteen-year-old embarks on her own memorable tale.
Eileen Favorite's lively, fresh, and enormously entertaining novel gives readers a chance to experience their favorite Heroines all over again, or introduces these fictional women so beguilingly that further acquaintance will surely follow. Narrated by the courageous and irreverent Penny, The Heroines will make book lovers rejoice.
On a picturesque acreage near Prairie Bluff, Ill., 13-year-old Penny Entwistle, and her mother, Anne Marie, run a retreat where literary heroines seek temporary refuge from their tragic destinies. Franny Glass, Madame Bovary, Scarlett O'Hara, Catherine Linton and others find respite from their varied crises, but must return to their books eventually and suffer the fate that awaits. Penny, in the first throes of teenage rebellion, has little patience for her mother and the heartbroken or otherwise distraught women Anne Marie refuses to counsel (lest she change the course of their stories). And Anne Marie lavishes on her heroine lodgers the attention her daughter longs for. But when a mythical Celtic knight arrives, searching for his lost heroine Deirdre, Penny gets caught up in a web of deception that lands her in the loony bin. While the staff diagnoses her fabulous story as an attempt to deal with the long-ago death of her father, her mother commits Penny as a means of protecting her from peculiar goings-on at the house, and Penny must rely on the very fictional characters her mother favors to help her. Favorite offers a fun take on the impact literature can have on our lives. (Jan.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Read an Excerpt
The sorrow of delayed pubescence Annoyance with Deirdre Girlish Fantasies Appearance of the Villain
I was so angry with mother! I stormed down the prairie trail, flip-flops slapping my heels. Walking the mown path through the fifty-acre prairie was the only way to cool my head. Hell hath no fury like a pissed-off thirteen-year-old-girl, especially a late bloomer, impatient for her body's transformation. I was pigtailed, knobby-kneed, and flat-chested, thirteen, but physically more like ten.
Retreating to the woods was an act of rebellion. My mother had forbidden me to go there at night, so I could hardly wait to get through the prairie and reach the dark and leafy trails. The sun was dropping behind the trees, and the cicadas rattled like electric maracas. The prairie grasses and wildflowers reached my shoulders, the flora so thick even someone as furious as I wouldn't dream of walking through it. I stuck to the path. Out on the prairie, the temperature dropped by five degrees, but it was still muggy. The noise from Route 41 sounded louder at night, cutting through the woods and across the power lines. A far-off motorcycle gunned it, probably passing another car. The engine whined, built up steam, then faded away. The sound of impatience. And escape. I could relate. An M-80 boomed. You heard them less frequently as the July days marched past the Fourth, but then one would boom on the twentieth. Boom! Somebody out there just couldn't stop.
I couldn't stop either. The scent of clover, the chicka-chick of some odd bird. Mother had gone too far with Deirdre this time, and I couldn't stand it. I wished Deirdre would move on! Find some other bed-and-breakfast to colonize. Though colonize wouldn't have been my word at thirteen. Back then, I probably would have said, Move your butt down the road, girlie! Constant coverage of the Watergate trials and Deirdre were hard rivals for Mother's attention, which I craved in a classic pubescent way. I longed for motherly fussing precisely when my mother wouldn't give it; and I cringed when she touched my hair or asked how I was doing when I had a perfectly marvelous funk going. Her timing always seemed to be off.
But tonight Mother had gone too far. The weeping Irish girl had moaned so much that another boarder had complained, so Mother had given her the farthest room away from him: my room. My sanctuary with the dormer windows and peerless cross-breezes! And Mother hadn't even asked if I would mind. Even though three other rooms were empty, she volunteered my room, as if it were hers to give. I had spent the summer modifying the posters and pillows to my new tastes: my growing collection of Zeppelin albums, my purple beanbag chair. All bought with money from chores. Now I had to relinquish it to a pouty Irish girl who possessed everything I craved for myself: flowing blond hair, angelic skin, perfect curves. I would be stuck on a mat in the musty cupola with the dead horse-flies and cobwebs. Unlike some boarders who came for a week or two, Deirdre hadn't specified her departure date. I could be trapped in the cupola for a month. I looked across the prairie at the fireflies flickering in the weeds. Maybe I'd camp in the woods.
Humidity blurred the peach half-moon. I usually took this walk earlier, but the weeping Deirdre had monopolized Mother, and I'd had to clean the whole kitchen myself. While I swept the remnants of our cook Gretta's potato salad and sauerbraten into the waste pail, Mother and Deirdre sipped ginger ale in the dining room, and Deirdre blathered about some boyfriend of hers who died. Gretta had the evening off, and Mother wasn't budging, so I had to rush to stack the plates and wipe clean the counters and sweep the great linoleum floor.
I swatted my arm and hurried through the woods toward the spot where a great blue heron I had named Horace lingered at sunset. I always tried to spot Horace before he detected me, but he took flight at the snap of a twig, unfolding his six-foot wingspan and gliding across the murky water. I had missed him tonight and it was no accident. It was Mother's fault. And Deirdre's too.
The residual buzz from a joint I'd smoked that afternoon with my neighbor Albie tilted my senses. Albert Gallagher was fifteen, a longtime nerd who'd recently morphed into a stoner. I wasn't a particularly capable joint smoker, and after a couple tokes, I noticed how the birds suddenly seemed to be having genuine conversations. I could deal with the whole alternate reality of the sound of the creek, but gawky and pimpled Albie was another story. He smiled at me too widely, his braces glinting, and I saw the chemistry-set dork of yesteryear. He had to be pretty desperate to hang out with me. I was not one of those thirteen-going-on-twenty-two type of girls. But I was grateful for his companionship in the summertime especially, and Mother hadn't really acknowledged that he wasn't the innocent boy he used to be. Her vigilance had waned precisely when it should have sharpened. She knew that Albie and I "took hikes" in the afternoons, but she had no clue about my nighttime excursions alone in the woods.
The woods at night had always been a forbidden zone, and up until a few months before, I'd always steered clear of them after dark. Mother never said precisely why I shouldn't go into them, and as my irritability with her increased, so did my desire to venture farther into the woods. I was growing beyond Mother's constant surveillance, and with every nightly walk through the woods that passed without incident, I became emboldened, venturing farther and farther into the dark.
A mosquito whined in my ear, and I swatted it, first calmly, then spastically. Between the black branches the sky was gray. I ran across a short extension bridge, making the chains and planks rattle like hell, then I flew into another small prairie. The sudden appearance of a Tudor mansion shifted everything. At this point in my daily stroll I always slowed down. I trailed my fingers along the flowers, suddenly elegant, suddenly cool. I pulled the rubber bands out of my hair and let my curly red hair hang. I imagined a handsome hero, half hidden by a velvet curtain, watching my pensive walk through the prairie and asking himself, Who might that creature be? I envisioned a future where every night I descended a spiral staircase, a butler handed me a champagne flute, and my dashing husband and I tangoed across the living room. Back then, I had no doubt that my life would have a happy ending.
After the second prairie, I wound up back in the dark woods. It was later, and therefore darker than I'd ever seen before. I turned on a bridle path and heard something scamper through the fallen leaves. The cicadas' rattle grew louder, then suddenly stopped, as if warning me. A flame of fear blazed through my body; an animal, evil men, something was lurking and watching me from the dark corners of the woods. Two acorns thunked to the ground. Then I heard beating hooves behind me. I jumped off the path and pushed far into the brambles, swearing that I would never disobey my mother again. The scratchy, moist brush felt like a giant, thorny spider web, and mosquitoes immediately started to feast on my exposed skin. I turned back to look at the path.
I saw the silhouette of a man with billowing hair riding a horse at full gallop. Wood chips flew into the air behind him. In one hand he held the bridle, and in the other a flaming torch of such orange fire, I could scarcely believe it was earthly. I squeezed my eyes shut and pressed against a tree trunk, praying he wouldn't see me, and wondering if this was why Mother had warned me to avoid the woods at night.
"Where is she?" he roared.
The horse skidded to a halt, and he waved the torch into the trees, turning them from black to flickering gold. My fingers trembled, and it took every ounce of strength not to wet my pants. He held the torch high, next to his face, and I saw his muttonchop side-whiskers, his thick beard. He peered down his long, sharp nose, then tilted the torch so it shone in my face. I crossed my legs and hugged myself.
"Where is Deirdre?" he shouted.
It suddenly dawned on me that this girl I'd been fighting with and hating and wishing would go away was a genuine Heroine. Boring Deirdre was one of them; even Mother hadn't guessed. Never before had a man leapt from the pages of a book to recapture a Heroine. Deirdre was so depressed - crying all the time and monopolizing Mother's attention - she must have come from some awful romance. Only a cheap book would have binding too weak to hold back a stereotype like this guy. All of this flashed through my mind while my body trembled with terror. For, whatever the plot line, however base the literary merit, this guy and his torch were close enough to set the tree on fire.
Copyright © 2008 by Ellen Favorite
Meet the Author
Eileen Favorite teaches at the School of the Art Institute of
Chicago, where she received her MFA in writing in 1999. She was nominated
for a Pushcart Prize for her short story "Gangway: The Space Between Two
Houses." Her poetry and prose have appeared in literary magazines and her
essays and poems have aired on Chicago Public Radio. She lives in Chicago
with her husband and daughter.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I picked this up on a whim...and I think I should have thought about it more. This is set really back in the 1970's and deals with Penny and her mother who see heroines from famous novels staying at their Illinois boarding house from time to time. There are a few funny times but mostly its very hard to follow and confusing.
I loved the premise, but I was disappointed in the execution. I wanted more of the literary heroines. It seemed almost like the author was name-dropping; they showed up but were rarely utilized as full fledged characters. Mostly they were one dimensional. Considering how the book was described, I also expected more of them. The whole "Girl, Interrupted" middle section seemed like it belonged to a different book. In the end it was merely a plot device; characters were introduced never to be seen again, and the whole thing seemed overly violent and devious for something that in the end was glossed over. The ending seemed abrupt and the epilogue "tied up" some plot strands that weren't really introduced in the book itself.
I have to agree with the other reviews regarding this book. While I found it somewhat interesting to listen to I feel that where the description says Penny gets help from the heroines she really did not. I expected the heroines to take an active role in helping her instead of them simply carrying on as usual. The story seemed somewhat disjointed and I really would not recommend it.
This book was not what I expected after I read the summary. I wanted more about the "heroines".
this is not the heroine-addled fantasy story the book is advertised as. there are appearances by famous literary characters. but the book makes me think more of "Girl, Interrupted", a far cry from what i expected. it's a good book and a fast read, though i am disappointed by the false advertisement.
I thought there would be more about the heroines themselves finding themselves in the 20th century, possibly helping solve a mystery. It turned out to be another novel of teenage angst, complete with her incarceration in a mental institution. Then it goes off into her mother's encounter with the Wuthering Heights characters as a young woman. It seems Heathcliff is the father of Penny, the teller of the story. The writing was disjointed, particularly during the mother's back story when she met Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. I would not recommend this novel to anhyone.
Cute pretty much sums it up. It's a cute story, with a cute main character and cute ending. It's certainly not a thinking book, but it's a quick read for a plane ride.