A lot of people read books to escape: They want to inject action, adventure, passion, and fantasy into their everyday lives while forgetting about the stressful stuff in their own lives. But a lot of people also read books to feel connected and seen. To read about a character they identify with, to get reassurance that they are doing OK, to know they are not alone.
For single moms, finding characters who look like them in the pages of a book can be difficult — traditional romance tends to center on younger women and women who don’t have kids and baggage. And the hard, hard truth is that there aren’t a ton of single mom authors because they are busy getting sh*t done to keep their lives afloat.
But don’t worry. There are some amazing books out there with single-mom protagonists! And even better? They tend to be totally awesome. Below, I’ve collected 10 of my favorites, from romance to mystery to traditional literature, each featuring an unmarried mom making her way... on her terms, on her own. These main characters are strong, fun, thoughtful, hard-working, and determined, and best of all, you are sure to recognize yourself.
1. Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
Finlay Donovan is a Scary Mommy through and through. She's exhausted, overworked, newly single, and a mom of two adorable little kids. As a suspense writer, Finlay also has a wicked imagination, which is how she ends up mistaken for a contract killer. The job means a big day for Finlay and her family, and she unwittingly accepts. After all, she kills fictional characters for a living, so how hard can it be to do it in real life? Mystery comedy writer Elle Cosimano has a special place in Scary Mommy Book Club's heart, and we're on pins and needles waiting to find out what happens next in the Finlay Donovan series!
2. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Doubling as a single mom and full-time student, Emoni Santiago has dreams of becoming a chef after graduation, but the road ahead is filled with more bumps and challenges than Emoni is willing to take on. After all, she has a daughter and her abuela to care for. Be that as it may, the kitchen is where Emoni feels her most authentic self, so perhaps breaking her self-imposed rules wouldn’t be for the worst.
3. Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan
Scary Mommy Book Club author Annabel Monaghan has written one of our favorite badass single mom books of the century. It’s about a recently divorced romance screenwriter (and mom of two) living in a 100-year-old home, who takes in Hollywood’s most eligible heartthrob in return for $7,000. Nora is strapped for cash, and Leo’s half-drunk proposition would solve a lot of her problems. But as the end of Leo’s temporary stay nears, Nora finds herself wishing she could extend his checkout date.
4. Heartburn by Nora Ephron
In this ‘90s classic, we meet Rachel Samstat, who — at seven months pregnant — learns that her husband is in love with another woman. A cookbook author by nature, Rachel throws all her energy into work (and vying to win Mark back) while also cooking up a masterful revenge plan.
5. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms
When her absent ex-husband offers to watch their kids for the summer, Amy ditches suburbia for a glitzy few months in the Big Apple. With fewer dishes to clean and mouths to feed, Amy has all the time in the world to do the things she actually wants to do, like try new food, embrace the arts, and maybe, finally, go on a few dates. It isn’t long before Amy finds herself wrapped up in a hot summer fling. But when an issue back home breaks Amy out of her city girl bubble, she must choose which version of her life she likes best — and if there’s a way to fuse the two.
6. The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren
The only things single mom Jess Davis loves more than her daughter are science and numbers. So when she’s prompted to enroll in a new DNA-based matchmaking company, she’s all in. To her astonishment, Jess scores a 98 percent compatibility with the founder, whom she happens to despise in real life. The “Diamond” pairing is a company first, and Jess is offered an outrageous sum to participate in a marketing campaign. With no family around and her daughter’s father out of the picture, Jess could really use the money... so she agrees. What’s the worst that could happen? She falls in love? As if.
7. Welcome to the Neighborhood by Lisa Roe
While a huge adjustment, relocating to a new city means Ginny can finally give her 11-year-old daughter everything she always wanted. Happy and newly remarried, Ginny is ready to get on with this next chapter of her life, and having a sexy, financially stable husband like hers definitely has its perks. However, it also has its downsides, like the fact that Ginny’s neighbor also has the hots for her new husband.
8. One Plus One by JoJo Moyes
Jess’s life is kind of in shambles at the moment. Her husband is MIA, her teenage stepson is a victim of school bullying, and she can’t afford to send her genius daughter to the Math Olympiad. Enter Geeky Ed, aka a super rich tech guy *eye roll* whose vacation home Jess cleans — and who also happens to have a working car and lots of loose change. Ed’s offer to drive her and her kids to the math competition is too easy and wacky of a solution, but it might just work.
9. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
One of the most empowering books to come out in the last few years, Lessons in Chemistry follows a single mother and chemist who reluctantly agrees to be the face of America’s most talked about cooking show in the 1960s. A feminist in her own right, Elizabeth Zott uses her platform to teach her viewers about a lot more than just the best way to make a casserole or candied ginger. In a revolutionary tidal wave, Elizabeth encourages fans to stand up against sexism and pursue their own passions.
10. Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
A heart-rendering and sexy read, Seven Days in June centers around a pair of ex-lovers who serendipitously run into one another at a literary event 15 years later. Eva and Shane couldn’t keep their hands off each other when they were teenagers, but with more than a decade of baggage between the two of them (plus a kid), it’s going to take a lot more than sex to mend their frailing, complicated relationship.