Sunday, July 13, 2008
The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
When I found out I would be receiving this book from Library Thing Early Reviewers, I kind of wondered what it was that made me request it in the first place. That's not to say that the premise didn't sound interesting to me or that I wasn't very eager to finally get a fiction book from them (has anybody else been noticing a trend toward memoirs here? Er...it's not over). I mean, it sounds fluffy, it sounds like a feel good book. I'm categorically against fluff and when asked to recommend a feel-good book, I usually find myself completely unable to (yes, this has actually happened) because, it happens, I just don't read them.
So I approached The Wednesday Sisters with interest and, admittedly, some trepidation. Here is the story of five friends meeting together in a local park where their kids play. It's the 1960s and while women have made some strides away from more traditional roles, they aren't quite "liberated" yet and they've still been trained to believe that they belong in the house with the kids and that their dreams should play second fiddle to their husbands' dreams. Clayton's writing proceeds with the breezy ease that comes with a book that would make for good company at the beach. The easy, simple writing style is deceptive, however, as there is just so much here. This is a tale of grown women coming of age. Despite their being out of school and having husbands and children, these women don't yet know themselves or where they belong in a time and place fraught with changes.
As the five decide to turn their Wednesday conversations at the park into a more serious time of writing and critiquing each other's work, Clayton brings their quest to know themselves and each other to life. Through their writing, the women slowly get to know the most intimate truths about each other and begin to realize some things about themselves in the process. As Frankie, Linda, Brett, Ally, and Kath take their dreams down off the shelf where they were relegated when marriage and children came along and simultaneously face the struggles and trials of everyday life, they are forced to find out just what they are made of and how far they will go to be there for each other.
Clayton offers an insightful depiction of an uneasy time in history when women were struggling both to maintain the sort of feminine expectations their mothers had modeled for them and to take hold of new opportunities to pursue their own dreams and break free of the stereotypes of what a woman should and should not be. Clayton's book asks the questions about womanhood that continue to be relevant today, questions about what really makes a woman. A child? A family? A career? A dream?
What emerges is a heartwarming tale of the friendship of five women who seem to be meeting and defining themselves for the first time in an era when having a child might still define a woman but so could being a surgeon or even an astronaut. This is an easy read, but don't let it fool you. There's a deeper story here than what meets the eye.