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Divining Women by Kaye Gibbons
Divining Women is set in 1918 at the end of World War I and the emerging flu pandemic. Mary Oliver comes from a wealthy and eccentric Washington D. C. family, and has just finished her college studies. Looking for a purpose to her life in a time where opportunities were limited for women, her mother sends her to North Carolina to help her Aunt Maureen with the last months of her pregnancy. What Mary discovers when she arrives is that Maureen has suffered under her tyrannical and cruel husband, and has even agreed to a post-pregnancy hysterectomy to cure her "hysteria." As the birth of her baby approaches, the flu has arrived in town. Typical of Kaye Gibbons' novels, Mary and Maureen must find the strength to overcome the obstacles and societal limitations of the era to realize their purpose in life as women. Divining Women has received mixed reviews with the Washington Post saying, "Still, reading Kaye Gibbons invariably provides pleasures, including her gorgeous voice and the generous empathy she brings to her female characters."