Monday, June 16, 2008

Review: The Wednesday Sisters

Summary: Friendship, loyalty, and love lie at the heart of Meg Waite Clayton’s beautifully written, poignant, and sweeping novel of five women who, over the course of four decades, come to redefine what it means to be family.

For thirty-five years, Frankie, Linda, Kath, Brett, and Ally have met every Wednesday at the park near their homes in Palo Alto, California. Defined when they first meet by what their husbands do, the young homemakers and mothers are far removed from the Summer of Love that has enveloped most of the Bay Area in 1967. These “Wednesday Sisters” seem to have little in common: Frankie is a timid transplant from Chicago, brutally blunt Linda is a remarkable athlete, Kath is a Kentucky debutante, quiet Ally has a secret, and quirky, ultra-intelligent Brett wears little white gloves with her miniskirts. But they are bonded by a shared love of both literature–Fitzgerald, Eliot, Austen, du Maurier, Plath, and Dickens–and the Miss America Pageant, which they watch together every year.

As the years roll on and their children grow, the quintet forms a writers circle to express their hopes and dreams through poems, stories, and, eventually, books. Along the way, they experience history in the making: Vietnam, the race for the moon, and a women’s movement that challenges everything they have ever thought about themselves, while at the same time supporting one another through changes in their personal lives brought on by infidelity, longing, illness, failure, and success.

Humorous and moving, The Wednesday Sisters is a literary feast for book lovers that earns a place among those popular works that honor the joyful, mysterious, unbreakable bonds between friends. -- Ballantine Books

When Meg Waite Clayton contacted me a few weeks ago about her new book, THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS, I was positively thrilled. She sent me a brief synopsis of the book, and I knew I just had to read it. I am a huge sucker for good books about women and the friendships they develop. I sat down and read this book over the course of a day -- I couldn't put it down.

One of the main reasons that I enjoyed this book so much was that the characters were all so likeable to me. I felt like I could be friends with each of these women, and I recognized traits in them that I see in my current friends. I even saw bits of myself in each of the characters. Usually I'm lucky if I can relate to any character in these types of books; but I have to say that there were small parts of every character that I related to.

I also loved the historical aspects that the author wove into this novel. The book takes place in the late 1960s and early 1970s - a huge time of change for our country and women in particular. I am too young to remember this timeframe, but I have heard so much about the events during this period that I felt like I was reliving memories. I especially enjoyed the historical facts about the space program as well as the pop culture references of popular books and movies. It's obvious to me that Ms. Waite Clayton did a lot of research before writing this book!

While some reviewers have said that the issues these women deal with are too "trite" or "familiar" (to use constructive criticism terms from the book), I disagree. I found their stories to be very realistic. Their problems and issues were things that I have experienced either in my own life or have seen happen in my friends' lives. Maybe these issues keep recurring in women's books because they are so true. Either way, I laughed and cried with these characters as they worked through their problems and found themselves through writing.

I think Meg Waite Clayton is a wonderful writer. As I mentioned earlier, I couldn't put the book down. While some of the issues that the women faced were quite serious, the author was still able to infuse a sense of humor into the story. This book definitely wasn't a downer for me -- the book ends very upbeat with a wonderful message of resilience and hope! Ms. Waite Clayton has a fantastic website that I've spent some time on. You can read much of the praise already circulating about this novel -- many authors whose books I have loved are saying terrific things about this book. In addition, there are lots of other interesting features including advice and inspiration for aspiring writers as well as some background on her research.

I highly recommend selecting THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS for your next book club meeting. It's not a very long book (under 300 pages), so everyone should have time to read it within a month's time frame (I know that's a concern for the moms in my book club.) I have a feeling that this is going to be a big book club selection within the next year because there are so many wonderful things to discuss. There is quite a bit of symbolism in this book which would be fun to delve into a little deeper -- the space program, the old mansion, and the Miss America pageant to name a few. Random House has posted a reading guide as well as a wonderful interview with Ms. Waite Clayton.

As of today, June 17th, THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS is available to everyone. Hurry on out and buy it -- I think this book will make a terrific summer read!

Come back tomorrow because I will be posting an interview I recently had with the author. In addition, I will be running a contest for a free copy of THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS -- I have an extra copy that Ballantine Books sent for me to share with one very lucky reader.

Also reviewed at:
The Bookworm


Cheryl said...

Great interview. I have been eyeing this book and now I will have to read it

Michele said...

Thanks for the review! I am excited to read it. I am first on the list at the library!

Susan said...

I've heard a lot of good things about this one. I'll definitely be back tomorrow to enter the contest :)

jezebelsk said...

Sounds terrific! I've already added it to my wishlist!

Darlene said...

Great review! I've got this one on hold at the library and after reading your review I'm even more anxious to read it!