Author: Meg Waite Clayton
Release Date: May 2009
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Literary Fiction; Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Publisher: Five women, one passion, and the unbreakable bond of friendship.
When five young mothers—Frankie, Linda, Kath, Ally, and Brett—first meet in a neighborhood park in the late 1960s, their conversations center on marriage, raising children, and a shared love of books. Then one evening, as they gather to watch the Miss America Pageant, Linda admits that she aspires to write a novel herself, and the Wednesday Sisters Writing Society is born. The five women slowly, and often reluctantly, start filling journals, sliding pages into typewriters, and sharing their work. In the process, they explore the changing world around them: the Vietnam War, the race to the moon, and a women's movement that challenges everything they believe about themselves. At the same time, the friends carry one another through more personal changes—ones brought about by infidelity, longing, illness, failure, and success. With one another's support and encouragement, they begin to embrace who they are and what they hope to become, as The Wednesday Sisters welcomes readers to experience, along with its heroines, the power of dreaming big.
My Thoughts: I finished reading this book a while back, but developed a bad habit as a result of writing reviews. Looking through a book as I write my review, I find myself re-reading parts of it. Not so bad until I sit down and re-read the entire book, as I did with The Wednesday Sisters! Often, I also find myself doing this with books I didn't like, mostly with the hope that when I re-read them I'll find something that will change my mind! This wasn't the case with The Wednesday Sisters. I didn't have any problems with this book, a wonderful story about friendship, loyalty, the power of literature and believing in yourself!
The Wednesday Sisters is narrated by Mary Frances O'Connor, or "Frankie". Frankie is easy to connect with and a woman we would hope to have as a friend if we don't already. She's interested in her friends' lives, encourages them, and is observant and honest. She's the perfect choice of the five different women to look back on their lives and relate their story. Unlike Allie, who is painfully shy, even sometimes withdrawn, Frankie is quiet and timid but also friendly and approachable. Where Linda is brusque and blunt, Frankie is gentle and tactful with a great sense of humor. She comes from a working-class family in Chicago and her life is vastly different from Kath, a debutante from a wealthy Kentucky family. Finally, there's Brett, who is not only college educated but has a Masters. Unlike Brett, Frankie didn't go to college as her father didn't believe in educating women. Frankie is very insecure about her lack of education and doubts her intelligence, especially next to Brett's brilliance. But, like many women who grew up in the 40's and 50's, the five Wednesday sisters married, became good mothers and wives who are first and foremost defined by their husbands' careers.
The women bond over a mutual adoration of great literature from Daphne du Maurier to F. Scott Fitzgerald to Sylvia Plath. But it's not until they form the Wednesday Sisters Writing Society that the women discover they harbor dreams for themselves beyond marriage, dreams they've never dared share with anyone else. The women write, share and critique each other's stories, essays, book passages and poems. Their writings become a jumping off point to tell each other about their lives, hopes, fears, experiences, their current joys and worries. The women get to know each other very well. and while discovering who each woman is, they also discover themselves. They learn to give the support, comfort and loyalty offered to each other to themselves, as they learn to believe in and trust who they are.
The author's writing is tight and engaging, moving the story along at a brisk, measured pace. Her ability to say so much in less than three hundred pages is a tribute to her skill at keeping to what matters. So, although we know the women are trying to write (some more than others), we get only some brief glimpses, just a few lines from, for instance, one of Frankie's drafts and a short story of Linda's. Ms. Clayton wisely opts not to fill the pages of this book with each woman's voice via their writing. She keeps her story centered around the five likable female characters who all women can identify with in some way. Their initial bond just happened to be over a shared love of literature.
As their friendships grow, the women support each other while confronting difficult issues in their lives. Their strengthening bond enables them to trust each other as well as themselves and to acknowledge who they are, their faults as well as attributes. Ms. Clayton does an admirable job of showing us how the friendships of these women through the years gives them the strength to deal with life on a personal and public level.
Meg Waite Clayton sets The Wednesday Sisters in the late 60's as it moves into the 70's, a time of growth and extreme change in America. Together the women experience the race space race, the Vietnam War, a civil rights and women's movement that encourages them to see their lives from different perspectives. Ms. Clayton uses the Miss America Pageant to mark the passing years. It's an ideal vehicle to emphasize the impact significant changes in America are having on society as well as the women's lives. They bond while watching the Miss America Pageant and talk about issues that affect their lives, but are also universal to all women, which makes this a book all (American) women can understand.
The Wednesday Sisters is beautifully written, a compelling and poignant story about friendship, loyalty and believing in ourselves enough to make our dreams come true. Meg Waite Clayton shows us how these women learn through a love of great literature and the power of friendship to overcome the obstacles in their lives and celebrate who they are. This is not a beach read. Rather, it is a book for intelligent women written with a sense of humor and an awareness of many of life's ironies. I loved this book and recommend it!