Marissa Stapley's new best-seller, Lucky, features a grifter who buys a winning lottery ticket but can't cash it in because she's on the run after her latest heist. Below, Stapley recommends six other books with unforgettable heroines.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett (2016).
One of my favorite books of all time, this is a coming-of-age story that's at once an exploration of the complexity of young love and a deep treatise on the meaning of motherhood. Nadia Turner's story, laced with secrets and hidden heartaches, is incredibly propulsive. And the writing is perfect. Buy it here.
Runaway by Alice Munro (2004).
Whenever I'm deep into writing a book, I read Munro's short stories and find inspiration in her incisive insights into human nature. Three stories in this collection center on a character named Juliet Henderson, and getting to know one of Munro's people so well is a true gift. Buy it here.
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (2018).
In the pandemic, I went through a phase of feeling flat about everything, even reading. This slim, fast-paced, wildly entertaining novel pulled me out. In it, Korede must deal with the harsh and hectic reality of a beautiful sister who keeps "accidentally" murdering her suitors. Having to clean up her sister's messes is one thing; watching the man Korede herself loves fall for her sister is another. Buy it here.
Perestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley (2020).
The memorable female lead here is a spirited filly racehorse who meets a motley group of friends — a German pointer, a raven, an orphaned 8-year-old boy — as she moves stealthily through Paris, trying to avoid capture. The talking animals evoke fairy tales, but the thoughts about existence and belonging that Smiley works in are anything but childish. Buy it here.
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton (2021).
I can't resist a novel set in the music industry. This one combines an epic storyline about a musical duo's origins with one of the best characters I've read in a very long time. Opal is fierce and fabulous, and Walton's writing crackles with life. Buy it here.
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (2003).
Although Henry is the main character in this gorgeous time-traveling love story, his wife, Clare, is the star. She is so poised and certain of the intricate desires of her own heart — a rarity, both in fiction and reality. After reading it, I felt I knew Clare, and the sensation has never faded. Buy it here.
This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.