I loved this book. I mean I really loved it. I have never read Jennifer Weiner before, but I so appreciate her decision to tackle a story from childhood until late life. I love that she gives us a seemingly accurate portrayal of the lives of Jo and Bethie, a picture that I think many of us can relate to. Weiner does not shy away from touching on tough subjects (trigger warnings her for abortion and sexual assault), including homosexuality, women’s liberation, eating disorders, and death. Her treatment of this issues is fair and true to life, in my opinion, and this is part of the reason the story is so strong.
Weiner takes her reader on a journey through the lives of two sisters, Jo and Bethie whose lives take entirely different and surprising paths, but are still united by the love they have for one another. The story is also one of identity and learning to be who you are in a world of competing and conflicting voices. The story takes place largely in the 1960s and 1970s when the world is changing so rapidly. I love the setting here because it allowed the conversation to touch on so many pertinent issues that were coming to the fore during this time period (i.e. abortion laws, the role of women in the home, civil rights, etc.) One of the significant strengths of this story for me is the vast array of questions that it posed in the form of the situations these characters were presented with.
I have always found it fascinating that sometimes the direction of our lives comes down to simple (and sometimes not so simple) choices that we make. Weiner places this characters in an array of situations in which they are forced to make choices. Choices that will change the direction of their lives–sometimes big and sometimes small–but powerful nonetheless. We see these characters live with these choices, and then carry the weight of them throughout their lives. Some of the choices are beneficial and others are burdensome, and Weiner does an absolute fantastic job depicting the paths that these choices lead to for each of the sisters.
I would definitely add this one to your Summer Reading List!
From the Publisher
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?
Thank you so much to Atria Books for the Advanced Reader Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
As always, thank you for stopping by to read my review of Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner. You can find me on Instagram at @stephy_reads to let my know what you think about this title!