This Sunday Book Review is for Jennifer Weiner’s bestseller – Mrs. Everything. Another wonderful pick recommended by CEO of our Canadian book chain Chapters Indigo. How could I resist? A family saga story of two sisters coming of age in 1960s Detroit with feminism, gay, and civil rights at the forefront of the era, and how the times affected their childhoods and led them and their path through life to who they ultimately grew up to be.
Do we change or does the world change us?
Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise.
Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life.
But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and women’s lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?
In her most ambitious novel yet, Jennifer Weiner tells a story of two sisters who, with their different dreams and different paths, offer answers to the question: How should a woman be in the world?
A NEW YORK TIMES 100 NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2019 SELECTION
ONE OF NPR’S BEST BOOKS OF 2019
THE WASHINGTON POST’S 50 NOTABLE WORKS OF FICTION IN 2019
GOOD HOUSEKEEPING’S 50 BEST BOOKS OF 2019
An instant New York Times bestseller
“A multigenerational narrative that’s nothing short of brilliant.” —People
“Simply unputdownable.” —Good Housekeeping
“The perfect book club pick.” —SheReads
Named a Best Book of Summer by Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, PopSugar, HelloGiggles, and Refinery29
From Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Do You Love and In Her Shoes comes a smart, thoughtful, and timely exploration of two sisters’ lives from the 1950s to the present as they struggle to find their places—and be true to themselves—in a rapidly evolving world.
My 5 Star Review:
I loved this book!
A story of generational change told by two sisters – Jo and Bethie Kaufman. The story begins with the childhood years of these sisters, growing up in the 50s/60s in Detroit, Michigan, delving into their very different characters as they evolve through their growing up years till present, as the story jumps back and forth from childhood to present.
Jo is an athletic tomboy, who, as she grows up, struggles with her identity, questioning her own opinions, preferences and society and its norms and stigmas as she struggles with relationships – at home and with friends. She has a strong connection with her father and is daddy’s sports lovin’ daughter. Yet, her mother can’t seem to get past Jo’s lack of desire to wear dresses and frills, creating a growing distance between them as Jo matures and questions her gender in silence because questions about being gay were taboo.
Jo’s younger sister Bethie is a girlie-girl, mamma’s girl. Her perfectly planned life takes a whole new trajectory after she becomes sexually abused by a family member. With not wanting to let anyone know, what she carries inside – fear and shame, breaks her when it eventually catches up with her.
The story takes place as events happen in the daily life of what seems the ‘white picket fence’ American family, affecting both sisters in their very different growing up circumstances in their lives.
The subject matter these girls endure in their lives shapes their lives in different ways. Beth is a studious, pretty and popular girl whose disposition and demeanor in her young 12 year old life becomes altered and marred by the stigma of subjects never talked about in those days – family incest.
Jo is Beth’s protector, and becomes the mother to her sister because their own mother cannot be. Jo has been an activist since she was a young child when she couldn’t understand why her mother fired their maid, whose daughter Jo had befriended. Jo spends her teenage years picketing on weekends with the black folk for civil rights. This girl was born well ahead of the times, living in a world of prejudice and entitlement.
This book has everything. At first, I correlated the title with Jo – being everything to everyone. But even more so are the number of sociological issues the author brings into this book through these richly complex and developed characters, from sexual abuse. civil rights, gay rights, social thinking, and more! This is women’s fiction at its best, covering a complexity of issues entwined in the life of these sisters.