Four women suffering menopausal symptoms get an incredible relief system: creams so good that they give them superpowers. The hot flashes, discomfort, and uneasiness turn into super strength for Linda, bulletproof skin for Patricia, flying ability for Jessica, and fire power for Helen. This surprising premise mixes some very odd things indeed, and immediately sparked my curiosity, so I approached Samantha Bryant asking for a review copy.
The narrative genre for women seems only interested in finding new revenues of the Fifty Shades of Grey variety, and it’s hard to hear about women past a certain age, especially in heroic fiction. I think this story is a step on the right direction, and it can also be a useful and funny way to start talking about the Change itself; all women will pass it at some point of their lives, and the people around it at least should know what to expect.
The book takes a little while to really get going, since the main points for all involved are their relationships, and it takes its time setting them up. As you can imagine, the changes are not easy to cope with. For example, Linda turns into a man in the process, and her husband somehow finds the strength to accept that… Helen burns down her house, and the surprise of seeing Jessica perched on the roof sends daddy out to the hospital. In general, the new powers wreak havoc among the close family members of each woman.
As for why these alternative creams trigger such strange reactions? In comes from the now forever-young local chemist and biologist Cindy Liu. She is the creator of these radical new treatments, responsible for the strange side effects, and, ultimately, the reason for all women to gather together and fight.
I think the book works well as an excuse to talk about the menopause experience and how women are expected to cope with pressure from all directions. For me, the most surprising novel to feature female characters in strange and new situations is the graphic novel series Y: The Last Man. In it, all men suddenly disappear, except one man and a male monkey. To find out what happened they must disguise themselves, because now only women are around: old, young, frightened, sad, angry … and suddenly in charge of everything. The story builds on this bizarre setting and really makes the readers question what they know about gender.
In this novel’s case, the question it raises for the reader is about the women themselves and what they want for their futures. Ultimately, relationships weigh very much on the decisions ahead of each one; their personal lives may benefit from their newfound powers, but they could also put their loved ones in jeopardy. Of course, this great responsibility is akin to all superheroes.
A female point of view includes many things, some very present in the story; there is lots of humor, lots of feelings, and also discomfort described in a playful way. If you like it, you will probably find yourself looking forward to the second in the series.
Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel
By Samantha Bryant
Curiosity Quills Press (April 23, 2015)
Cover art courtesy of Curiosity Quills Press