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Book Review: Foundations by Abigail Stewart
You might remember Abigail Stewart from her On Rejection interview last March—at the time, her first novel, The Drowned Woman, was available for pre-order. Now her second novel, Foundations, is now available for pre-order. Pre-ordered copies are signed and will ship on March 7.
I love a slim novella. Don’t get me wrong, I love books of any size, but there’s something about a book under 150 pages that makes me think, Here’s a nice way to spend an afternoon. And Foundations was absolutely one of those books. I devoured it in an afternoon at a coffee shop, pausing between parts for refills. It felt like revisiting my hometown—of course, it is literally set near my hometown, in Dallas. I didn’t grow up in the city though, not in the neighborhood conjured up in Foundations, but it still felt a little like returning home.
The novella revolves around a house that three women live in over time. Each one gets entangled with the house with one dream—building a family, hiding from fame/shame, creating a brand—but quickly finds themselves shifting into a different dream instead. It has some kind of power, this house, to show them what they actually need as opposed to what they’ve convinced themselves they want. Each woman has her own part, separated by years and sales. But they are also aware of the women who came before them through the house’s reputation and damage. Even though they never meet each other, each successive woman brings the previous along, thinking of them as they inhabit the house.
Like Stewart’s first book, The Drowned Woman, this tale has a feminist bend to it, a sense that the women will not be cowed by the men around them. Her women see the men in their lives and take men’s dreams into consideration, just not at the price of their own. They live their lives on the same terms that the men do, making the decisions they need to without fear of repercussions. It’s refreshing to witness women make a decision that’s right for them without overly worrying about how it will impact a man. Women are conditioned to take men’s needs into more consideration than their own, and fiction often has a part in that conditioning. This imbalance is usually reflected back to us in fiction, reminding us that being a ‘good’ woman means softening the edges of your life to accommodate a man’s breakable ego; but the women in Stewart’s books don’t worry about being a ‘good’ woman any more than the men worry about being ‘good.’ Everyone just does what is best for them without agonizing over it, trusting it will work out in the end. It’s refreshing.
We know very little of what happens to each woman after they leave the house, and I kind of loved that about this. It captures this brief moment for them, a window when they can grow wings or become wallpaper, and we get to watch them fly.
I received an advanced reader copy of Foundations in exchange for an honest review. If you’d like to get in touch about a review for your book, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org