Book Review for “A Cowardly Woman No More” by Ellen Cooney.
Summary: “Over the course of one fateful day, Trisha Donahue begins to reclaim her courage and discovers secrets in a familiar place. A surprising, quietly dramatic adventure story infused with Ellen Cooney’s warm humor and wisdom. After years of skilled work and dedication, Trisha Donahue is denied a well-earned promotion by her company’s male executives, who give it instead to an under qualified man. Devastated, forty-four-year-old Trisha begins to reckon with the demands that exhaust her, the injustices that confront her, and the ways she has betrayed herself “just to fit in” with coworkers who resent and belittle her abilities. But at the Rose & Emerald—a unique rural restaurant Trisha has loved since childhood—her company’s annual Banquet Day sets in motion a surprising adventure, revealing unexpected allies, hidden passageways, and an interstellar secret. Encouraged by a vivid cast of characters, from sympathetic coworkers to the mysterious employees of the fabled Rose & Emerald, Trisha makes a decision that will change her professional and personal life forever.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Fiction; Settings: Era/s: Contemporary; Location/s: USA – Fictional region of Massachusetts; Other Categories: Novel, Women, Coming of Age, Humor, Social Commentary.
To start out, I want to say that I’m very happy that I ran across Cooney’s novel “Thanksgiving” way back when I was a novice blogger. That book has stuck with me since I read it 10 years ago, even though it wasn’t indicative of what I’ve read by Cooney since. So, when Ms. Cooney offered to give me access to the Edelweiss widget for this book, I couldn’t resist, and took it without even bothering with reading the blurb. That could have been a mistake, but as you’ll see from the rest of this review, it wasn’t!
Every so often you come across a book that you just know some people are going to hate because “nothing happens.” Well, this is one of those books and they are the ones I really enjoy because they’re character driven, and we can really get to know our main protagonist. Granted, sometimes we don’t care all that much for the main character, but usually, unless that person is truly evil, the good things about them outweigh the bad. Plus, we are reminded that we are all human, with quirks and flaws. This is exactly what Cooney does here, and I’m thinking this is her forte. The thing is, Cooney’s Trisha believes that she’s totally normal, and aside from her exceptional proficiency at her profession (something high tech, data analytics), she’s living an ordinary life, that she’s happy about, and feels very lucky (which she says often enough in the book). However, as Trisha tells her story of how she came to this point in her life, we realize there’s far more beneath the surface of which even she isn’t aware. One way to describe it would be that the real Trisha has been hiding from the world, practically avoiding it, and fooling herself that she’s an open book, but that book is fiction.
Cooney also uses an interesting metaphor here (or at least I thought it was a metaphor, so stay with me here). This has to do with the place called Rose & Emerald, where Trisha’s company holds an annual banquet. The place has reopened after a disaster, and the story is that the building was hit by a comet, which destroyed much of the building, but it is all up and running again, business as usual. Now, Rose & Emerald has been around for decades, and is some kind of amorphous meeting place, with a bar, maybe a restaurant, and (of course) a big hall for various types of events. This building has been around, serving its purpose, maybe getting a little worse for wear, but it carries on. Then, one day BAM it gets hit by a comet. Well, that’s traumatic, and it will take a while to fix it back up, but when it does, it is basically the same on the outside, but it certainly is better on the inside. Isn’t that a bit like Tricia’s life as well?
Come to think of it, maybe the comet is yet another metaphor. You can see a comet and its trajectory from far away, but you don’t know what kind of damage it will cause when it hits, if it does hit something. From how Tricia describes her life and work at the company, you knew eventually something was going to hit, but you didn’t know when or what damage it would cause. Either way, I found this to be a truly lovely read, funny at times, poignant, and an interesting portrait of a type of person I’m sure we all have met, or maybe actually are. Therefore, I warmly recommend this and give it four and a half stars out of five.
Coffee House Press released “A Cowardly Woman No More” by Ellen Cooney on April 4, 2023 (or May 18 in the UK). This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Blackwell‘s, Foyles, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (both with free worldwide delivery), Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and Wordery US, Kobo US (eBooks and audiobooks), Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic). I would like to thank the Author and her publisher for giving access to the ARC of this novel via Edelweiss.
This novel qualifies for the following reading challenges: New Release Challenge (#12).