Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger, best friends since law school, have reunited for a long weekend as Betts awaits Senate confirmation of her appointment to the Supreme Court. Nicknamed “the Ms. Bradwells” during their first class at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979—when only three women had ever served full Senate terms and none had been appointed to the Court—the four have supported one another through life’s challenges: marriages and divorces, births and deaths, career setbacks and triumphs large and small. Betts was, and still is, the Funny One. Ginger, the Rebel. Laney, the Good Girl. And Mia, the Savant.
But when the Senate hearings uncover a deeply buried skeleton in the friends’ collective closet, the Ms. Bradwells retreat to a summer house on the Chesapeake Bay, where they find themselves reliving a much darker period in their past—one that stirs up secrets they’ve kept for, and from, one another, and could change their lives forever.
Once again, Meg Waite Clayton writes inspiringly about the complex circumstances facing women and the heartfelt friendships that hold them together. Insightful and affecting, The Four Ms. Bradwells is also a captivating tale of how far people will go to protect the ones they love. -- Ballantine
It seems like I've been waiting for THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS by Meg Waite Clayton for a very long time. It actually has been a few years since I read (and really enjoyed) THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS, and I have been anticipating Ms. Clayton's next novel ever since. When I heard that THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS was another story about a group of women and their friendship, I had a feeling that I was going to be in for a treat. Just in case you don't know, I love books that explore women and their relationships.
And THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS certainly was a treat. I'm not sure that I appreciated it quite as much as THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS, but there were many things that made this book special to me. First and foremost is Ms. Clayton's writing. I just love it! She has the wonderful ability to create memorable characters and an intriguing story while also causing the reader to think. Needless to say, that's a very special skill.
Another thing that made THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS so special was that there was a mystery incorporated into the story. There are quite a few books out there that do a good job with handling the interactions between different generations of women, but I must say that the mystery surrounding the death of a family friend that occurred over 30 years ago brought the book to the next level for me. I definitely kept reading because I just had to discover the events surrounding the death/suicide and I desperately wanted to know how each woman was involved.
While the suspense and intrigue definitely piqued my interest, I was also extremely impressed with how the author represented the strength of female friendships as well as how complex these relationships can be over the course of a lifetime. These four women were extremely human (and by that I mean flawed), and their relationships represented their weaknesses and insecurities (and of course their loyalty to each other.) As a reader, I just loved how "real" their interactions seemed. I was also extremely impressed with how Ms. Clayton also managed to show the dynamics between mothers and daughters (another one of my favorite topics in literature.) And as if that wasn't enough, she also made some very interesting social commentary on the changing/evolving role of women in society.
While I enjoyed this novels and the characters, I initially had a hard time keeping track of the characters. The book is told in each of the four women's voices, and I didn't get a grasp on their backgrounds and their distinct personalities as early as I would have liked. In addition, I had some issues with how the story jumped back and forth between the present and the past -- I got a little confused with the transitions. I'm more than willing to admit that these issues are mine and mine alone. I was probably just preoccupied when I read the book, and I sincerely doubt most readers will share my view.
As was the case with THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS, I think THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS lends itself to a fantastic discussion. I'm betting that this book will also be a big hit with female book clubs. There is a very thought-provoking reader's guide which I found on the author's website. It has thirteen excellent questions which cover a wide variety of topics. Some of the issues that you might want to discuss include friendships, love, mother/daughter relationships, violence against women, role models, family dynamics, secrets, and the role of women in society as well as how it's changed throughout the years. Besides including this discussion guide, the author also has another feature for book clubs which I absolutely adore. She has a table of contents with quite a few "chapters" which provide insight into her writing and the book. For example, there is a section on "A Short Timeline of Women in Politics and the Law, America-Style" and other ones on the setting, poetry and even pearls!
While I can't say that I enjoyed THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS quite as much as THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS, I still thought the book was a very good read. And it's definitely one that I recommend to fans of Meg Waite Clayton and literary women's fiction as well as book clubs!
I reviewed this novel as part of a TLC Book Tour. You can check out the entire tour schedule here.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.
Giveaway alert: I have a copy of THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS to share with one lucky reader courtesy of the publisher. To enter, just fill out the form below before Monday, April 4, 20011 at 11:59 p.m. ET. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only. Good luck!