Books by Ames Sheldon

LEMONS IN THE GARDEN OF LOVE

It’s 1977 and Cassie Lyman, a graduate student in women’s history, is struggling to find a topic for her doctoral dissertation. When she discovers a trove of suffrage cartoons, diaries, and letters at Smith College belonging to Kate Easton, founder of the Birth Control League of Massachusetts in 1916, she believes she has located her subject.

Digging deeper into Kate’s life, Cassie learns that she and Kate are related—closely. Driven to understand why her family has never spoken of Kate, Cassie travels to Cape Ann to attend her sister’s wedding, where she questions her female relatives. Her quest to ascertain the truth about Kate unearths painful family secrets. Soon Cassie is shocked to find herself in the same challenging situation Kate faced.

Reviews:

“Sheldon’s evocative prose and compelling sense of the sweep of history grabs attention from page one. Lemons in the Garden of Love is a moving portrait of the struggles and successes of first- and second-wave feminism.”
Booklife Reviews

Compelling … full of verve and determination. Lemons in the Garden of Love is a rich historical novel that examines the slow acknowledgement of women’s rights.”
Foreword Reviews

“Ames Sheldon’s beautiful novel brings us on a journey with characters that come alive on the page, reminding us how far we’ve come in our fight for equality and reproductive health in this country.  It’s easy to forget what life was like for women before birth control was readily accessible and Sheldon’s engaging writing is an important reminder of what’s at stake today, when we find ourselves facing the potential loss of many of these rights.  It’s a wonderful tribute to the struggles and fights of our foremothers, to whom we owe so much.”
Sarah Stoesz, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood North Central States

“Ames Sheldon’s novel, Lemons in the Garden of Love, weaves the stories of several generations of women in one family, using a deeply researched diary from the early 20th century and a crisis point in the life of her main character six decades later. Sheldon deftly juxtaposes the experiences of middle-class women around marriage, childbearing, professional opportunities, and reproductive rights.  Readers will be caught up in Cassie’s story, her hard decisions … and come away with a much deeper understanding of the depths and the human costs of the long struggle for reproductive rights and its centrality to the unfinished fight for gender equality.”
Sara M. Evans, Born for Liberty: A History of Women in America

“A thoughtful exploration of the complexities of reproductive freedom ... Ames Sheldon’s characters draw you in as Cassie and her great-grandaunt Kate each navigate their own journeys. An interesting and compelling tale ... A great read.”
Jennifer Childs-Roshak, MD, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts

“Weaving the history of her own family and original sources with a rich fictional cast of characters and plot, Ames Sheldon’s third novel Lemons in the Garden of Love demonstrates Sheldon’s consummate skill at bringing history to life in an engaging story. Through the diaries of an early 20th century suffragist aunt, protagonist Cassie Lyman bolsters her own pursuit of autonomy as a woman, a spouse, a family member, and an historian in the late 1970s. She discovers that self-determination is not easily come by in the face of family and societal expectations and conflicting messages. An extra added attraction is Sheldon’s wonderfully evocative descriptions of the Massachusetts Cape Ann coast and its seasonal life. In the midst of current battles around reproductive rights, voting rights, and redefinition of family structures, Lemons in the Garden of Love is a relevant and compelling novel for fans of historical and women’s fiction.”
Barbara Stark-Nemon, Even in Darkness and Hard Cider

“In Lemons in the Garden of Love Ames Sheldon offers an important accounting of women’s rights, primarily reproductive rights, over the course of the 20th century. The novel illustrates the parallels between the lives of a young graduate student in women studies and a pioneering suffragist who happens to be her great-grandaunt. This novel is sure to please fans of historical fiction and strong, intelligent female protagonists. A multi-generational examination of an old Yankee clan, Lemons is a keen portrayal of women who, despite being born into privileged circumstances, struggle to shape their own lives.”  
Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg, Eden and The Nine

 

DON'T PUT THE BOATS AWAY

Winner in the Family Saga category and Finalist in Women’s Fiction for the 2020 American Fiction Awards
Finalist in Historical Fiction for the 2020 International Book Awards
Finalist in Fiction in the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
Finalist in Women's Fiction in the 2020 National Indie Excellence Awards
Finalist in the Historical Fiction category of the 2019 Best Book Awards

 

The sequel to Eleanor’s Wars, winner of the 2016 Benjamin Franklin Gold Award for Best New Voice: Fiction, Don’t Put the Boats Away is a character-driven story about the privileged Sutton family’s struggles with PTSD, alcoholism, professional setbacks, and divorce following World War II.

In the aftermath of World War II, the members of the Sutton family are reeling from the death of a beloved family member in the war. Over the next twenty-five years, they all struggle with loss and grief. Daughter Harriet and son Nat attempt to fill the void.  Harriet becomes a chemist despite an inhospitable culture for career women in the 1940s and ’50s, hoping to move into the family business in New Jersey, while Nat works as a jazz musician. Both fight with their autocratic father, George, over their professional ambitions as they come of age. Their mother, Eleanor, who has PTSD as a result of driving an ambulance during the Great War, wrestles with guilt over never telling Eddie about the horrors of war before he enlisted. As the members of the family attempt to rebuild their lives, the intergenerational repercussions--divorce and alcoholism-- become apparent. In the end, they all make peace with their losses, each in his or her own way.

Reviews:

"Don't Put the Boats Away is an impeccably researched and simultaneously heartfelt novel about what it was like to be a woman and a scientist in the wake of the Second World War. The world needs more novels like this."
Louisa Hall, The Carriage House, Speak, and Trinity

“Reading Don’t Put the Boats Away is like being enveloped in a family, a real family bound by love and loss, music and science. It’s a testament to the danger of secrets and the hope we place in future generations. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg, Eden and The Nine

"Don't Put the Boats Away is a richly detailed family saga of the Suttons' post-WWII lives--and a wonderful sequel to Ames Sheldon's first novel Eleanor's Wars. Ames's knack for period authenticity is paired with a keen portrayal of the inner lives of major characters that transcend common narratives of '50s, '60s, '70s America. Complex relationships, dedication to music, science, and family loyalty, and the haunting legacy of war even on privileged families make this a compelling read." 
Barbara Stark-Nemon, Even in Darkness and Hard Cider

“Don’t Put the Boats Away” is chock-full of well-researched historical details about political events, medical advancements, and even food trends of the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, and it also offers important commentary on professional opportunities for women during these decades. Overall, it’s a touching tale that examines the ways in which grief, regret, and unmet expectations can reverberate through generations.”
Kirkus Reviews

Don’t Put the Boats Away is a timeless portrait of life’s loves and losses… the novel has raw and dark undertones… Sheldon explores the furtive topics of mental illness and social conflicts with modern clarity… Her characters are empathetically real.”
minnesotamonthly.com

eleanors wars cover

ELEANOR'S WARS

Winner of the 2016 Benjamin Franklin Gold Award for Best New Voice: Fiction

It’s 1942 and the globe is aflame. Eleanor Sutton, matriarch of a prosperous New Jersey family, struggles to fight the war on the home front. But then long-buried memories rooted in Eleanor’s service in the Great War come to light. These decades-old secrets threaten her marriage to George—and bring his own carefully guarded secrets to the surface. As the tranquility of the Sutton household is upended, son Edward escapes to the front lines. Younger brother Nat, an aspiring musician, wrestles with the shocking revelations while trying to find his way at boarding school at Andover. Setting her own future aside to oversee the family Victory farm, daughter Harriet faces the secrets that challenge all her assumptions about family and love.

Set against the historical backdrop of World War II, Eleanor’s Wars chronicles the personal battles of one heroic woman in a rapidly changing world. It explores a timeless, universal subject: the insidious power of family secrets to shape and destroy lives and alter individual destinies.

Reviews:

"Few people know that women served as ambulance drivers on the incredibly bloody battlefields of World War I. With Eleanor, we glimpse the searing impact of that experience as she lives through World War II with her distant husband and three children. ...A gripping read...Through the eyes of a woman and an adolescent boy, in a time and place now fading from living memory, readers experience the realities of war, both battlefield and home front, from a fresh angle." 
Sara M. Evans,
Born for Liberty: A History of Women in America

“Ames Sheldon’s remarkably assured debut novel Eleanor’s Wars takes place in 1940s New Jersey and provides the reader with a fascinating view of the Second World War from the home front stage…The novel is a steadily-deepening web of secrets and revelations, something that kept me reading intently right to the last page.”
Teresa Devine, Historical Novel Society

"Sheldon gets it right. Based on extensive research, war times in 20th century American come into focus...She reminds us that yesterday's fears live only slightly mitigated today--bullying, gay, and feminist concerns...Eleanor's dilemmas are ours to ponder in today's context."
Ruth F. Quattlebaum, archivist emerita Phillips Academy Andover

"Eleanor's Wars is rich with the feel of America during WWII and the existence of PTSD in a generation that buried its trauma."
Cynthia Kraack, The High Cost of Flowers, 2015 Midwest Book Award winner for Literary Fiction

“A warm and intimate portrait of an American family twisted and shaped by the two world wars. Highly recommended, a pleasure to read."
Mary Logue, Lake of Tears

Ames Sheldon has written a novel about family and war and lies and forgiveness. In other words, she hits all the bases in reaching home – the place where you live.”
Faith Sullivan, author of seven novels, including The Cape Ann and Good Night Mr. Wodehouse.

 Available from:
Itasca Books
Amazon

 

WOMEN'S HISTORY SOURCES SURVEY:
A GUIDE TO ARCHIVES AND MANUSCRIPT COLLECTIONS IN THE UNITED STATES

This 1,100-page reference book consists of descriptions of collections of primary source materials pertaining to the history of tens of thousands of women from the colonial period to the present that are located in university libraries, government archives, state and local historical societies, labor unions, churches and religious organizations, professional societies, corporations, and other repositories of historical records throughout the nation. Many collection descriptions include histories of the persons and organizations around which the materials were organized.

Review:

"Women's History Sources is monumental is every best sense of that word. It is a magnificent contribution, and .. sets a standard that will not soon be equaled, let alone exceeded!"
Frank B. Evans, Archivist of the United States