Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
I knew this was going to be an amazing book when two people whose literary taste I completely trust were so excited to see this book in my local library's annual book sale haul. I remember watching Isabel Allende's talks on TED was was just enamored with her intelligence and sense of humor. This woman is secure in her identity and uses that identity to inspire passion in others.
Daughter of Fortune was an incredible tale. It showed me that mistakes are a part of grabbing control of your life. Those mistakes aren't proof that you made bad choices but that each mistake brings you closer to the life you want to live. For generations, women were told that the fear of those mistakes were enough to scare them into maintaining the status quo. While the reason for Eliza's break for independence didn't quite turn out happily ever after, her travels to that spot showed her exactly what she needed.
An orphan raised in Valparaiso, Chile, by a Victorian spinster and her rigid brother, young, vivacious Eliza Sommers follows her lover to California during the Gold Rush of 1849 -- a danger-filled quest that will become a momentous journey of transformation. In this rough-and-tumble world of panhandlers and prostitutes, immigrants and aristocrats, Eliza will discover a new life of freedom, independence, and a love greater than any ever dreamed.