Review: Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

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☆☆➹⁀☆ 4 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆


What It’s About:

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?


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My Thoughts:

The times, they were a changing…
Author Jennifer Weiner takes her readers through the tumultuous changes in the 1950s through the 1970s and beyond. Many reviewers are touting this book as every woman’s book; by including just about every injustice and situation any woman could have experienced, it makes women want to rally.  In addition to covering a myriad of women’s issues, it is a detailed work of {recent} historical fiction that your history class didn’t cover.

Even though I didn’t feel overly connected to any of the characters, I was engaged with the story and felt the characters sacrifices and losses. Much of Jo and Bethie’s young lives are constrained by social mores. As Bethie and Jo mature, they get involved in various social issues of their times, but hypocritically, they hold their mother in disdain without a thought of the socio-political challenges she faced and how they influenced her. The lives of the next generation of sisters– Kim, Melissa and Lila—are defined more by their choices. Each of the next-generation-sisters’ lives reflects a different path—having it all, choosing career over family, and wanting only to be a mother.  Just as Bethie and Jo didn’t appreciate the prior generation’s challenges, Kim, Melissa, and Lila do not appreciate the challenges of the prior generation or how they benefit from the many advances their mother’s generation.

In general, the writing is good and the attention to detail regarding everything from products and clothes to attitudes and language is perfect. Ms. Wiener fairly portrays the social and political turmoil of the decades as well.  I appreciated the detailed research and Ms. Weiner’s inclusion of so much pop culture—from Prell shampoo to Jane Fonda’s workout videos; however, I felt the author tried too hard to include everything in her latest novel. Granted that period of time was chock full of events and fads, but Bethie and Jo experiencing every possible woman’s issue during the decades covered in this novel was too much for me. If some of it could have happened to friends not just the sisters, it might have been more palatable.

Readers who love to be immersed in a period and/or who like socio-political novels will love Mrs. Everything.  Ms. Weiner covers corporal punishment, unwanted sexual advances toward a child, closet homosexuality, drug use and peddling, rape, the rebirthing phenomenon, interracial relationships, equal rights protests, women’s liberation, abortion, and even #metoo. I’ve probably left some issues out, and all of that is on top of all the iconic pop culture included.

Mrs. Everything is a fantastically detailed and well-written book of history and women’s history over several decades, and it is well worth the read for young women. They might appreciate how much has changed and how much they benefit from the women who pushed for those changes. More mature women will appreciate the trip down memory lane, perhaps seeing with fresh eyes all that they and their mothers lived through.


© Copyright 2019 Book Junkie Reviews. All rights reserved.

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