Friday, July 12, 2019

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

I have read and enjoyed pretty much everything Weiner has written, but in my view this was her very best - she seems to be at the top of her game.

This book tells the story of several generations of women though it centres on two sisters - Jo and Bethie Kaufman - who grow up in suburban Detroit in the 50s.  Jo is a tomboy who can never quite meet her mother's expectations for a daughter though she bonds with her father over baseball.  Bethie is the perfect "girly girl" who her mother holds out as an example.  But nothing is as simple as it seems in suburban Detroit.

Jo struggles with her sexual orientation while Bethie suffers a trauma which "turns the good girl bad".  It is Jo who ends up adhering to social norms at the time, becoming a wife and mother in Connecticut, while Bethie leads a more alternative lifestyle.  Neither is truly happy.

I don't want to give too much more away, but it is fascinating to read about these two sisters and through them to learn a lot of the history of feminism, sexual violence, sexual orientation, and even race relations.  I saw the author speak last night and she felt a key message is how difficult it is for women to achieve happiness - whether they conform or not.  And looking at Jo's daughters a generation later, the message is not much more hopeful.

I highly recommend this book.

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