Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

As a History major (who wrote her undergraduate thesis on the 60s), this book was a true pleasure for me. I loved how grounded the story was in historical events.  While it is fiction, it is very apparent that Clayton spent time researching  events of the late 60s.

Additionally, as a young woman who has only marginally felt the effects of sexism, the book allowed me a completely new view of the opportunities I take for granted.  It was completely eye-opening to consider how limited woman who grew up in the 60s were.

The five women in this novel, meet at a local park in Palo Alto.  All are young with successful husbands. Each has aspirations that have been put on hold as they fulfill the role of happy homemaker. They are all yearning for more in life. Frankie is insecure that she never went to college; while she had great grades she was forced to work to help pay for her four brothers college tuition.  Linda, a talented runner, is outspoken and fierce; she wants women to be allowed in the NYC and Boston marathons, and for there to be more equality in the Olympic events available for men and women.  Kath, is an English Lit major who was forced to give up any dreams she had when her parents force her to get married upon getting pregnant.  Her husband doesn't deserve her and cheats.  She is eventually forced to find a job as her husband moves out to live with his mistress.  Ally, is full of secrets.  Mostly, she is desperate to have a child. Brett, is a brilliant woman and scientist, who always dreamed of becoming an astronaut. She struggles as she watches her younger sister become a doctor and deals with a complicated history due to a childhood accident. Together the women face many challenges: unfaithfulness, cancer, infertility, miscarriages, racism.  It is obvious that Palo Alto in the late 60s was not the easiest place to live.  But the women band together in friendship, joining together to create a Writer's Workshop that helps change all of their lives.

Clayton is a masterful story-teller. While some of the events seem unlikely from a historical perspective, I was able to suspend belief enough to thoroughly enjoy this story.  I appreciated how much this book allowed me to view how far we have come as a society (at least in terms of the options available to women) and the incredible perspective it gave me on the women who "came of age" (as wives and mothers) post consciousness rising and the first wave of feminism.

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