Monday, May 2, 2022

The Change by Kirsten Miller

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Feminist revenge fantasy about three women whose midlife crisis brings unexpected new powers--putting them on a collision course with the evil that lurks in their wealthy beach town.

In the Long Island oceanfront community of Mattauk, three different women discover that midlife changes bring a whole new type of empowerment...

After Nessa James's husband dies and her twin daughters leave for college, she's left all alone in a trim white house not far from the ocean. In the quiet of her late forties, the former nurse begins to hear voices. It doesn't take long for Nessa to realize that the voices calling out to her belong to the dead--a gift she's inherited from her grandmother, which comes with special responsibilities.

On the cusp of 50, suave advertising director Harriett Osborne has just witnessed the implosion of her lucrative career and her marriage. She hasn't left her house in months, and from the outside, it appears as if she and her garden have both gone to seed. But Harriet's life is far from over--in fact, she's undergone a stunning and very welcome metamorphosis.

Ambitious former executive Jo Levison has spent thirty long years at war with her body. The free-floating rage and hot flashes that arrive with the beginning of menopause feel like the very last straw--until she realizes she has the ability to channel them, and finally comes into her power.

Guided by voices only Nessa can hear, the trio of women discover a teenage girl whose body was abandoned beside a remote beach. The police have written the victim off as a drug-addicted sex worker, but the women refuse to buy into the official narrative. Their investigation into the girl's murder leads to more bodies, and to the town's most exclusive and isolated enclave, a world of stupendous wealth where the rules don't apply. With their newfound powers, Jo, Nessa, and Harriet will take matters into their own hands...

The Change by Kirsten Miller is one of the most compelling books I've read all year. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the characters, and the justice dealt to those who deserved it. 

If you have a weak stomach or don't like to talk about menstruation, then this book might not be for you. The author goes into great detail about what it's like for women - Jo in particular - to have a heavy flow and what all that entails. Jo's period seems to be more intense due to the particular talents she possesses, but I do feel like the author was accurate in representing what women have to go through while on their periods. 

Harriet was by far my favorite character. I really liked her transformation and the freedom it provided her. She was finally able to be herself without restrictions and being responsible for doling out punishments suited her personality and newly discovered gifts. She always seemed to know what was going to happen before the others did, and I'm not sure if she was able to glimpse it somehow, or if she was just that intuitive. Of the three, she seemed most at home in her new body. She embraced her abilities and newfound connection to the world around her - a true badass. 

Nessa was a really sweet and gentle character, and my heart broke for her throughout the book. She's still dealing with the loss of her husband, and seeing dead girls pop up on a beach wasn't easy, especially once they realize the depth and magnitude of the situation. Someone has been taking and hurting girls, but specifically girls that no one will look for. Girls that no one will miss. It was heartbreaking to read about, and I'm glad they received justice at the end. 

I know the author was trying to make a point with this book, but not all men are terrible. It felt like every male in this book was flawed in some big way. Other than the detective, it was hard to like anyone other than the women in this book. Jo's husband was okay, but he wasn't the best, you know? He seemed jealous of his wife's accomplishments, lazy and uninterested in helping out around the house, etc. I wanted to see men who weren't scum peppered in throughout the book, but it mostly focuses on women and their bad experiences with the opposite sex. Not knocking it... just an observation and an opinion. 

I was also slightly annoyed by some of the character's choices in this book. One of Nessa's daughters decided to go for a run by herself even though girls have disappeared, and people have clearly threated the lives of Nessa, Joe, Harriet and their families. Jo also gets a business opportunity seemingly out of nowhere, and I didn't like how easily everything fell into place. She should have had more questions, or at the very least been hesitant about the offer. Additionally, the ending was a tad too obvious for my liking, and I wish it had been a little more unpredictable. 

I think The Change brings attention to a lot of "taboo" topics and realistically shows how women are perceived in the world. It's still very much a "man's world" that women are having to claw their way through just to be seen and heard. Even now, with everyone discussing abortion rights and what women are allowed to do with their bodies, women are fighting just to have a choice. Miller doesn't paint a pretty picture; she shares the harsh truths that people would rather avoid, and for that alone I would wholeheartedly recommend this book. It might be fictional, but its frankness was refreshing and really makes this book one worth reading. (★★★★☆)
Quotes I liked: 

"'The Commandments only apply to humans,' said the older woman. 'Nobody goes to hell for killing a monster.'"

"'But the truth is, Ms. Rocca--and I suspect deep down, you know this--every recipe is a spell. And all cooks are witches.'"

"'Anyone who needs a reward to be good isn't good. They just like rewards. Good people do the right thing because it's the right thing to do.'"

"'Nothing ages a person like poverty and misery,' Harriet said. 'Despite what all the ads claim, it's not skin cream that helps some women keep their glow. The only true youth serum has two ingredients--luck and money.'"

"'Seriously, Max. I grew up watching stuff that taught me that women who enjoyed sex were whores. That we should try to be who men wanted us to be--not who we really were. It fucked me up. It fucked up a lot of women I know. Is that what you want for your kid?'"

"The problem was the companies that sold shitty sanitary pads. Otherwise reasonable adults who believed tampons stole a girl's virginity. Doctors who didn't bother to solve common problems. Birth control that could kill you. Boys who were told that they couldn't control themselves. A society that couldn't handle the fact that roughly half of all humans will menstruate."

I also really liked the author's version of the Garden of Eden. It's better than the original, honestly. ๐Ÿ˜‰

"'God may have dictated the Bible, but it was put down on paper by men. And over the years, men have changed things that don't make them look good. In the original story, Eve was the hero, and this snake was her friend.'"

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.


  1. It sounds like a relevant book, not to mention, a fresh take on menopause and women getting older. Kudos to the author for going there. And I love her Garden of Eden twist as well ๐Ÿ˜‰.

    1. It was such a unique book! I'm so glad I had an opportunity to read it.

  2. Different! I'm adding it to Goodreads. ๐Ÿ“š


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