Upright Women Wanted, by Sarah Gailey

The old trope of running away with the circus never really made sense to me. Sure there’s glamor and adventure, but it always sounded like a lot of messy, smelly work to me. Running away to join librarians, however, is just my cup of tea. Even without the added “motivation” that prompts protagonist Esther runs away to join a group of traveling librarians in a devastated future America in Upright Women Wanted, I would totally understand why she would rather tramp around the desert with librarians than stay in her locked-down home, pushed into marriage and motherhood. This book absolutely delivered on its promise.

Esther is different from all the other girls in her town…well, different from all except one other girl. Things go wrong with their love and when the other girl is murdered, Esther hides away in the wagon of a trio of traveling librarians. She promises to work hard and suppress her otherness, only to be surprised when the women who run the outfit hold each others’ hands and tell her that there are safe places in the world for girls like her. The tricky part is getting to one of those safe places.

Upright Women Wanted rockets along as Esther tries to adjust to life on the road, with danger from the environment and the violent people who try to scratch out a living there. There’s also danger from within, when the librarians pick up a parcel that turns out to be three women trying to escape to one of those safe places. So much happens in this book that I’m astonished it’s so short and so adept at developing its characters. This book is a wonderful treat of a novella. I loved every page.


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