Published by Atria Books on June 11, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction
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FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
MRS. EVERYTHING Review
I’ve always considered Jennifer Weiner to be the unofficial queen of “Chick Lit,” so when I requested her latest novel, Mrs. Everything, I was expecting a fun, sexy read. What I got, however, was so much more than I anticipated, and I mean that in the best possible way. I honestly cannot remember the last time a book resonated with me as much as Mrs. Everything did. It packs an emotional punch on many levels – it made me smile at times, but it also made me shed a few tears, and sometimes it even just made me angry and frustrated. Why? Because it accurately, vividly, and sometimes painfully explores how hard it can be to grow up as a woman, especially during the time period when the book is set. The whole time you’re trying to figure out who you are and what your place in the world is, someone is looking over your shoulder trying to pigeon-hole you into some pre-determined notion of what makes an ideal woman, telling you your life will be best if you just do what you’re “supposed” to do.
Mrs. Everything captured my attention right away because it’s actually more of a historical fiction in that it follows two sisters, Jo and Bethie, from their childhood in the 1950’s through the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll era of the 60’s and 70’s, all the way up to their senior years, including Hillary Clinton’s historic run for the U.S. Presidency in 2016. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and Weiner does an incredible job of capturing each decade in terms of fashion, hair, pop culture references, etc. I truly felt transported back in time.
Weiner also captured my heart with Jo and Bethie. When we first meet Jo as a child in the 1950’s, she’s a rebellious tomboy who would much rather wear jeans and read books than do anything her mother considers “ladylike.” In contrast, Bethie is Mommy’s little princess, the epitome of beauty and femininity. In their mom’s eyes, Bethie is doing everything just right in order to secure herself a husband who will take care of her when she’s an adult, while who knows what will happen to Jo since she’s clearly on the “wrong” path. At first Jo had the bulk of my sympathy because her mother was so awful to her, always making her feel like she’s a disappointment, but later, when Bethie’s life doesn’t go as expected and her journey takes a darker turn, she earned my sympathy as well.
In following Jo and Bethie from childhood up into their senior years, Weiner fully explores what it was like to be a woman back in the latter 20th century all the way up to what it’s like now. She takes us through the highs and lows, the successes and the failures, and most especially, how hard it can be to stand up and be brave when the easier path is often to let fear win out. Even though the story takes a few dark turns through addiction and abuse, it’s ultimately a very uplifting story that shows how much has changed over time and proves women can be whoever they want to be: sisters, mothers, daughters, aunts, wives, friends, lovers, teachers, role models, and yes, even Presidential candidates (and hopefully Presidents someday!).
I feel like I just don’t have the words to convey just how powerful and moving a read this is, so I’m just going to close by saying this is one of my favorite reads of the year so far and that I highly recommend it to everyone!
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. Mrs. Everything is an ambitious, richly textured journey through history—and herstory—as these two sisters navigate a changing America over the course of their lives.
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?