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BOOKS

Boreal Book Club: What Wild Women Do by Karma Brown

Welcome to STYLE Canada‘s Boreal Book Club: a monthly meeting narrated by Girl Well Read, for bookworms who’re looking to scour new pages. Since we aim to shine a spotlight on all things Canadian in life and style, beauty, and health and wellness, it goes without saying that every instalment of the Boreal Book Club will feature a Canadian author and their latest title. Be sure to use the hashtag #BorealBookClub to share with us on social!

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Rowan is stuck. Her dreams of becoming a screenwriter are stalled, along with her bank account, as she and her fiancé Seth try to make sense of what’s next for them after leaving LA. But when the couple takes a trip to a cabin in the Adirondacks, hoping the change will provide inspiration for Seth’s novel-in-progress, Rowan finds herself drawn into a story greater than her own—that of socialite-turned-feminist-crusader Eddie Calloway, who vanished one day in 1975 and was never found or heard from again. In a handbook left behind in the abandoned ruins of a once great camp, Rowan starts to discover clues to what happened to Eddie.

As Rowan delves deeper into the mystery, we meet Eddie herself, a fierce and loving woman whose greatest wish was to host women at her camp and unlock their “wildness.” However, Eddie’s wild ways aren’t welcomed by everyone, and rifts between camp owners threaten her mission. When Rowan gets closer to the truth of Eddie’s disappearance, she realizes that it may hold the key to unlocking her own ambition and future

Photo: Karma Brown (Jenna Davis)

Much like its strong female characters, What Wild Women Do is a force. Told in dual timelines/perspectives, Brown’s latest offering is a comment on social media, the pressures of societal expectations on women, and finding one’s purpose.

Although Rowan and Eddie are from different decades, they have a lot in common—they are passionate, strong, and resilient. Both storylines are equally captivating and an ode to women. Brown elevates the novel with added layers of mystery and self-discovery.

Atmospheric, mysterious, and compelling, What Wild Women Do is a must read.

KARMA BROWN is an award-winning journalist and author of the bestsellers Come Away With MeThe Choices We MakeIn This MomentThe Life Lucy Knew, and Recipe for a Perfect Wife. Her first non-fiction book, The 4% Fix, published in 2020. Karma’s writing has appeared in publications such as RedbookSELF, and Chatelaine.

Brown lives just outside Toronto, Canada with her husband, daughter, and their adorably handsome labradoodle, Fred.

Scroll to read Girl Well Read’s exclusive interview with Karma Brown about What Wild Women Do. 

@karmakbrown via Instagram

GWR: This is your sixth fiction novel, do you approach each the same way or has your writing process changed? 
KB: Some things are always the same, like writing a detailed synopsis before a single page of the manuscript, and doing research and brainstorming ahead of drafting. I find a first draft (my least favourite part of the process) comes out more easily if I do this work first. You’re going to have to do the fiddly stuff at some point, and the “when” simply comes down to style and personal preference. However, I did something with this book that I haven’t before. Instead of writing the chapters consecutively, alternating between characters and timelines, I wrote Rowan’s (modern protagonist) storyline first, then switched to Eddie’s (1970s protagonist). That wasn’t my plan going in, but it’s what made sense for this book. So even though some things stay the same with my process, I’m always open to new strategies—every book is its own journey!

GWR: 
Being a screenwriter, Rowan would know how to pitch the book, but what do you think Eddie would say about it? 

KB: Eddie offers a lot of wisdom throughout the story, but I think she would keep it simple. Something like, “This book is about learning, and trusting, your personal truths. Nothing else matters!” After that she’d take a big sip of her beloved chocolate milk, and give a raised eyebrow look, as if to say, “Prove me wrong.”

GWR: Jess and Aidan live completely off the grid—is this something you think you could do? 

KB: Is it something I dream of doing? Yes. Is it something I think I could do…probably not. I am that person who wants to sit under a mother tree in a forest of mother trees, with a morning mug of coffee listening to birdsongs, and have nothing but wilderness surrounding me. But I’m also grateful that I can get next-day delivery without leaving my house, and I’m a big fan of indoor plumbing.

@karmakbrown via Instagram

GWR: The themes of this book—female relationships, societal pressures on women, the impact of social media—are all relatable, yet your take is fresh and also has an added element of mystery. Where did you draw inspiration from?

KB: I love setting a book in an isolated place, and the vast woods felt perfect for this story. When I was a child my parents took me and my younger sister to Camp Sagamore in the Adirondacks. It was the 1970s, we were the children of hippies and so well-versed in exploring wide open spaces and spending time in nature. Camp Sagamore had originally belonged to the gilded Vanderbilt family—these great camps were compounds built in the woods for these families to escape city life—and we stayed in Gloria Vanderbilt’s cabin, which was exciting! We spent our days exploring the woods, making plaster casts of animal paw prints, eating communally in the large, wooden beamed dining hall, and bowling for hours in the open-air alley. It was magical, and all these years later, it was that visit that inspired the setting for this book. But an isolated forest also lends itself well to mystery and disappearances…the trees are great secret keepers.

GWR: 

Strong women are central to your books. Who are some other authors you would recommend that also write strong female characters well? 

KB: This is a tough question to answer, not only because there are many authors to recommend, but also because what makes a female character “strong” depends on context, and perspective. However, some of my favourite female characters—who I think embody that adjective—are: Carrie Soto (Carrie Soto is Back, Taylor Jenkins Reid); Joanna Eberhart (The Stepford Wives, Ira Levin); Dr. Marina Singh (State of Wonder, Ann Patchett); Harriett Osborne (The Change, Kirsten Miller); and Carlota Moreau (The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, Silvia Moreno-Garcia).

GWR: 

What are some great books you’ve read this summer?

KB: This summer was a busy one, and I didn’t get as much time to read as I wanted to. So, here’s a sampling of a few great books I’ve read this year (so far): How to Sell a Haunted House, by Grady Hendrix; Weyward, by Emilia Hart; The Whispers, by Ashley Audrain; Nightbitch, by Rachel Yoder; The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise, by Colleen Oakley; Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier.

@karmakbrown via Instagram

GWR: 

What do you hope readers will take away from What Wild Women Do?

KB: I hope readers see, through Eddie and Rowan’s stories, that bravery, courage and resiliency arrive in both bold and quiet ways. Also, to remember that we only get this one life…so, how do you want to spend it?

GWR: 

If your book was a beverage, what would it be?

KB: I have no clue! Why is this the hardest question of them all?

Maybe a dark-roast, piping hot coffee, with a generous pour of organic soy milk, cinnamon and fresh nutmeg sprinkled on top. Strong, slightly out of the ordinary, a touch sweet and spicy.



GWR: Can you share what you are working on next?

KB: All I can say at the moment is that I’m actively drafting a new story—one that veers into a different genre from what I’ve written before—and that I am having the most fun writing it! Stay tuned for more ☺

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