Horseshoes and Hand Grenades tells a story in alternating viewpoints of the harassment that women face daily, on the street, at work, anywhere public really. It ranges from heartbreaking to infuriating and all the feelings in between.
Shelby and Astrid are both working in PR which was a tougher world in the ’80s when the book takes place and there weren’t a lot of women in their profession. Shelby has been carrying a secret from childhood, one that she has tried for so long to keep buried. But once she recognizes it, it spills out and starts to affect every aspect of her life.
While she’s busy trying to keep Astrid happy, Astrid is keeping a secret too, only this isn’t a childhood secret, it’s one having to do with their job. Both of these women come together in friendship and solidarity over the course of the book. It’s not an easy road for either of them to walk, but if they want to get onto the road to healing, they must address it once and for all.
So I had a few issues with the book. I felt that as we neared the second half of the book, the chapters weren’t as equally divided between Shelby and Astrid but focused more on Shelby. It felt like that portion of writing was mostly to fill space and not necessarily moving the story forward. I also felt Shelby was pretty selfish at times, always wanting to make things about her. She also drank, a lot, and while this is a coping mechanism for PTSD sufferers (which she more than likely has), it’s not greatly addressed.
I had to laugh when Stevens wrote how Shelby was getting a place with “older women” and then a paragraph down she writes “my roommate is like twenty-seven” because I wouldn’t consider that older at all. I wish there was more of Astrid’s situation, I wish she would have had the strength to find a new job sooner.
But what I did like about the book is watching the women come together. I liked that the author included such heavy subject material in the book, because sexual harassment happens to women so often, and we should spend more time lifting each other up rather than tearing each other down. I think with a bit of editing, this could be a really great book. The underlying message of strength and hope is a strong one, and I think that will shine through for readers.