The Heroines

The Heroines

by Eileen Favorite


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416548119
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 02/03/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About 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.

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

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Heroines 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
DanceBree17 More than 1 year ago
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.
Audacity on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I puzzled over this book for a while before finally buying it on sale.Then, I waited even longer to sit down and read it. Oh, how I wish I had read it right away. This charming novel is the perfect blend of famous heroines from literature mixed with a spunky, headstrong American girl's thoughts and experiences. It was an easy read, taking me just under a day once I got past a slightly rocky beginning. The book is definitely worth the read, and will provide the reader with hours of "what if" imaginings after the end. It's definitely one I'll pass on to friends, both literature lovers and casual readers, alike. Although the main character is 13, the book can be enjoyed by YA readers and adults, thanks to its many layers of allusions and humor. Not only was it enjoyable, but it's motivated me to revisit some of my favorite classics, next!
lulamay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Just don't.I felt like I needed to watch American Idol to make me smarter after reading this.The author uses characters from wonderful literature in such sad sordid ways. There were many instances throughout this that made me feel she didn't comprehend any of the classics she used so brutally. (one character sports the wrong hair color for the whole book, the WHOLE miserable book)Grab something by Jasper Fford, be assured this is nothing but a pale, pathetic, sad, poor immitation.
Brianna_H on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Heroines is about a young girl who lives on the premises of a bed and breakfast run by her mother. This is no ordinary bed and breakfast, however. This bed and breakfast is the place where distressed heroines from famous novels such as Wurthering Heights and the Scarlett Letter come to escape from the perils of their story lines in their respective books. This is also a story of the trials and tribulations of adolescent angst. This is exactly the type of plot that in defter and more talented hands would have enraptured me. Unfortunately, Ms. Favorite's writing was uninspired and flat. I read this book in one day. It barely skimmed the surface of the emotions of the characters. The characters were not well-rounded or drawn out. I had high expectations after reading the book description on the inside flap, but The Heroines needs more than a good plot idea to rescue it from the well of soon-to-be forgotten books.
BlondeBibliophile on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The only thing I have to say about this book is.....blah.Don't waste money buying this book, don't waste time reading it. Yak.
atinker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Grade Levels: 10-12 Category: Realistic/Fantasy FictionRead Alouds: pp. 8-14 (the Heroines); 28-34 (Emma Bovary); 85-94 (the mental hospital); 112-120 (Scarlett O¿Hara); 155-163 (Hester Prynne); 176-180 (Catherine Earnshaw); 207-216 (Heathcliff); 227-231 (Epilogue) Summary: Thirteen-year-old Penny Entwhistle lives at a magical bed and breakfast where Heroines from classic literature occasionally come to stay for a break from their plotlines. Penny finds herself messing with the storylines of one of the guests and is hurt. Her mother takes her to the doctor and ends up committing her to a mental hospital. Penny escapes with a Villain who wants to capture the current guest at her house. He hides Penny in the woods and holds her captive until an exchange can be made for the Heroine. Penny eventually learns that her own father was a Villain and never messes with another storyline of a visiting Heroine. Themes: The major theme in this book is ¿what is real?/what is fantasy?¿ The premise of this book is very interesting. The idea that these famous fictional women need a break from their ¿jobs¿ as heroines is fascinating. That is real. Don¿t we all need a break once in awhile? Yet, they use this time off to figure out how their fictional lives will work themselves out. Then there is Penny, her mother, and Gretta who are privy to the thoughts and plots of the Heroines. Real women helping fictional women: it is very strange, maybe even crazy. But after Penny ends up at the hospital you don¿t want to believe that she is crazy, but maybe she is. Maybe her mother is. Maybe Gretta is. You are left wondering if it is all a fantasy, but you don¿t want to believe that it is make believe. Which is weird, because after all, the book itself is a work of fiction.Discussion Questions: Why is Penny¿s mother so afraid for Penny? Describe the character of Gretta. Why is she so important to this story?Who is really crazy at the hospital? Who isn¿t? How do you feel about the treatment the girls receive there?Why is Penny do fascinated with Conor? Why does she resent Deidre? Who was the only Heroine that Penny liked? Why did she like her?Reader Response: This was a really weird book. That said, I think it is an excellent introduction to some of the great women heroines of classic literature. I don¿t think you necessarily have to read the classics to understand the story. If anything, it lights a little fire in your head to revisit or visit for the first time, those women from those books that seemed like they would be too boring to really get into. An excellent book about books.
sarahlouise on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This looked promising and I like the premise, but by the time I hit p. 49, I realized I didn't care about any of the characters
Evynrude on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
a fun read about a mother and daughter and the bed and breakfast that literary heroines come to stay at when they need a break from their storyline. And ironically, I've never read any of the books of the heroines that come to visit.
kalky on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have to agree with many of the other reviews of this book... what a great premise, and if anyone knows of a book with a similar premise that is better executed, please let me know!I gave the book three stars because I did enjoy reading it while I was reading it, but it was disappointing because it could have been done SOOOO much better. I loved all of the main characters, but would have really enjoyed getting to know them better. More about the mother as she grows up, more about Penny before the time which is the focus of the novel, and more about what happens after Deirdre's visit... just more, more, more!As it is now, it's good beach reading (which was my use for it). And I'll just be sad for what it could have been.
inkcharmed on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was so disappointed with this book the second half that I almost wanted to rate it lower, but overall, I found it fine, so tried to be fair and rate it thus!The premise of the heroines at the b&b interested me so much that I think I just had higher hopes for it, and when the book didn't end up being what I'd expected, I wasn't as interested.It didn't end up being my thing.
snat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sometimes a clever conceit should remain just that--a conceit. Because no matter how you try to develop it, it will never be as as wonderful as the idea itself. Trying to build upon it and give it complexity strips it of its fanciful "What if?" brilliance and plummets it back to earth. And so we have The Heroines, a novel built around one of the most wonderful ideas I've ever encountered--what if the heroines from famous novels needed a respite from the tragedies of their own storylines--and promptly clustermugs the whole thing up. Basically, I feel as though I was sold a false bill of goods. The novel purports to be about a bed and breakfast that attracts the heroines of famous novels. Deirdre of the Sorrows, Franny Glass, Daisy Buchanan, Anna Karenina, Hester Prynne, Catherine Earnshaw have all signed the guest book and checked in for a few days of freedom from the misery of their lives. This is what I wanted to read about--how the heroines come to be at the bed and breakfast and how they interact with a modern world. I expected quirky, witty, and humorous. What I got was dark, disjointed, and ordinary. Instead of focusing on the heroines (who are little more than footnotes), the novel focuses on Anne-Marie Entwhistle and her daughter, Penny. Anne-Marie and Penny run the bed and breakfast and, unfortunately, the novel chooses to focus on their problematic relationship as a result of Penny's coming of age. WTF? Scarlett O'Hara's pounding on the door and instead of focusing on that, a pedestrian mother/daughter conflict is the subject of the book? And that is, in essence, the root source of my disappointment with the book. When heroines do (very briefly) make an appearance, they are flat, one-dimensional versions of their colorful, complex selves. Hester sets about sewing an A on the front of her dress and throwing just enough "thou" into her dialogue to make her seem authentic, Scarlett wakes in the middle of the night to pull down the curtains (for dressmaking purposes, of course) and try to steal the sweet potatoes, Deirdre constantly weeps. They read as caricatures of themselves. As for the plot, Penny is rebelling by going out into the nearby woods against her mother's rule against doing so. While there she meets and falls in lust with the Irish King of Ulster, Connor (better known as Conchobar in the original Deirdre mythology), who has followed Deirdre into our time. Through a muddled turn of events, Penny is locked up in a psych ward and we have to read about her "it's-just-so-all-unfair!" experiences there. After finally breaking free, Penny returns to the woods with Connor, during which some awkward sexual awakening occurs and Penny is going through withdrawal from the meds given to her in the psych ward. She spends her days smoking pot while Connor hunts deer and builds huts. Aaannnnndddddd that's pretty much it. Basically, there's just enough inexplicable tragedy and unresolved longing in Penny's life to make one wonder if Penny is herself a heroine (a thought which Penny also considers). Then we have a peculiar shift in narrative and we go back in time to when Penny's mother was a young woman. A point of contention between Penny and her mother has always been the void that is Penny's father. Penny knows that her mother became pregnant out of wedlock, decided to keep the baby against the wishes of her parents, and that her father died in a car accident. Penny's mom is mum on the details of who Penny's father was and what, exactly, her relationship with him was. This part of the narrative answers all of the questions Penny has regarding her father. I won't reveal any more here as to do so would be to spoil the ending, but this storyline was the best in the book and took about 10-15 pages. The payoff was not worth the other 200+ pages through which I had to drag myself. The story could have been saved if the characters had been more likable, the heroines had made more frequent (and more satisfying) appearances, or if
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AmiB More than 1 year ago
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.
Sew4th More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Madame More than 1 year ago
This book was not what I expected after I read the summary. I wanted more about the "heroines".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lillian_Evening More than 1 year ago
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.
Whytewitch More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago