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Literary female characters who will always be in my girl squad

Heather Haines

Before I started scrawling meaningful-type stuff, I was a dedicated reader. I had my favorite books with dog-eared pages and highlighted passages. I imagined myself in the heroine’s shoes or, more often, I imagined her in mine.

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The way they handled their lives influenced how I dealt with my own. More often than not, my own friends were struggling to find their identity, so we were all sort of floating along together… these women had already been through it. I couldn’t wait to curl up with their story and find the similarities between their lives and mine.

Years later, I still return to them. Even if we haven’t “spoken” in years, I carry their spirit in me. They’ve changed me for the better. Made me softer, more bold and brave. Their lives are cozy, like well-worn sweaters in the fall and the perfect mocha cappuccino. Our commonality lies in the moments of tearful goodbyes and fluttering hellos. I’ve returned to them in times of love-torn agony and on the days when my own insecurities were running roughshod over my life. I lost myself in their story and found a part of my own identity in their carefully worded phrases, spunk and kindness.

I may come off as a bibliophile, but I’m comfortable with that role.

Rose Wilder Lane in A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert

A Wilder Rose: A Novel
Image: Amazon

A story, based on the life of the daughter of famed children’s book writer Laura Ingalls Wilder. Rose navigates the complicated relationship between mother and daughter. Wouldn’t we all appreciate honesty about the sometimes thorny relationship with our mothers? Her commitment to her own successes, as well as her mothers, reminds me that in the moments when my own mother/daughter relationship fails, she is still a foreshadowing of who I will become.

Favorite quote: I had the idea of writing something that was true and real and satisfying, something I was passionate about, not just the magazine stuff I had been writing for a living during the last decade. Something that would express me, if I could ever manage to understand who I was. But I was too many things, and wanted too many things, and could never decide which ones might (if I could pay them the proper attention) be most important.

Anne Elliot from Persuasion by Jane Austen

Persuasion: Jane Austen
Image: Amazon

One of Austen’s lesser-known novels but my personal favorite. Anne’s story is the perfect examination of missed opportunities and the impact of time on our emotions. Her ability to tolerate her insufferable family while maintaining a cool level of civility could inspire anyone. However, it’s her capacity to rise above her own devastation that has encouraged me time and again.

Favorite quote: Time is a great healer, or at least so I am told.

Sookie Stackhouse from The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris

Sookie Stackhouse
Image: Amazon

If you’ve only gotten to know Sookie through True Blood, then you’ve been missing out. The books are so much better. (Except for the last one, but that’s another story.) The moral of the Sookie story line is that crazy shit happens, but you gotta keep working on your tan.

Favorite quote: Sometimes you just have to regret things and move on.

More: 12 powerful books that celebrate the female voice

Claire Randall Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

Image: Amazon

I first picked up this series over 10 years ago. The books are long, like The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, but they’re delicious, and Claire is the ultimate lady under pressure. She reminds me that sometimes you have no choice but action, even when your heart is breaking… and for a girl (like me) who is afraid of making a mistake, her bravery is inspiring. Also, Jamie is just yummy.

Favorite quote: I stood still, vision blurring, and in that moment, I heard my heart break. It was a small, clean sound, like the snapping of a flower’s stem.

Jennifer Worth from a Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth

Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times
Image: Amazon

I was first turned on to Jennifer by the PBS hit Call the Midwife. After the first episode, I decided I needed to read her memoirs. I wasn’t disappointed. The lives of the women and families she served were heartbreaking and poignant, and her memories of each one of them are delicate enough to have altered my own life. Jennifer reminds me that you have to look beyond the circumstance for the beauty within. Sometimes it’s quite difficult, but once you do locate it, its splendor can be brilliant.

Favorite quote: Now and then in life, love catches you unawares, illuminating the dark corners of your mind, and filling them with radiance. Once in a while you are faced with a beauty and a joy that takes your soul, all unprepared, by assault.

Susan Richards from Chosen by a Horse

Chosen by a Horse
Image: Amazon

As a horse lover and a writer, Richards melts my heart. Her relationship with former race horse Lay Me Down is eye-opening and sincere. My own mending from loss has included an upturned bucket in the corner of a stall with a 1200-pound horse. Recovery, no matter the circumstance, is best achieved through silence, and horses have the unique ability to offer us comfort and solitude at the same time.

Favorite quote: They say you can’t escape your past, but I don’t believe that. I believe you escape it every day, over and over again, always cognizant of the difference between past and present.

Most days, it’s not easy to come by actual inspiration. People are so wrapped up in their own daily struggles that it’s difficult to pick out the gems of wisdom in our convoluted circumstances, but my squad has remained consistent in their ability to rise above. They are the bastions of my faith, the lighthouse to my storm, and I will return to them, over and over again, to feel comforted. We may not hit the nail bar for a glass of white and a pedicure, but my time with them is no less meaningful.

More: 11 history books on fierce women you didn’t read about in school

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