Sunday, August 18, 2013
The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
Published May 2009 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: both of the copies I read are mine - a paperback and a Nook book
When five young mothers—Frankie, Linda, Kath, Ally, and Brett—first meet in a neighborhood park in the late 1960s, their conversations center on marriage, raising children, and a shared love of books. Then one evening, as they gather to watch the Miss America Pageant, Linda admits that she aspires to write a novel herself, and the Wednesday Sisters Writing Society is born.
The five women slowly, and often reluctantly, start filling journals, sliding pages into typewriters, and sharing their work. In the process, they explore the changing world around them: the Vietnam War, the race to the moon, and a women’s movement that challenges everything they believe about themselves. At the same time, the friends carry one another through more personal changes—ones brought about by infidelity, longing, illness, failure, and success. With one another’s support and encouragement, the Wednesday Sisters begin to embrace who they are and what they hope to become, welcoming readers to experience, along with them, the power of dreaming big.
Two years ago I read Waite Clayton's The Four Ms. Bradwells about a group of who come together by chance and form a lasting friendship despite their differences. I didn't realize then that two years earlier, she had written another book based on the very same premise. Again Waite Clayton gives each woman her own set of troubles to deal with and, once again, she addresses women's rights.
My review of The Four Ms. Bradwells is far more glowing than I remember feeling about the book in retrospect and I must say that I enjoyed The Wednesday Sisters more. I found it much more plausible that these women would come together and have a basis in maintaining a friendship over the years with their shared interests in writing and motherhood.
I never could quite get over the idea that the chance that five women who all have some aspiration as writers might chance to meet each other in the neighborhood park and that more than one of them might actually have the talent it takes to be published. I was far more interested in watching the women deal with the issues of fidelity, fertility, racism, and women's rights. The Wednesday Sisters is a kind of coming-of-age story, not in the traditional sense of teens growing up, but of women pushing the boundaries of their place in a male-dominated society. Can they hope to be something more than just wives and mothers? Is it right for women who are starting to believe that they are capable of so much more to, by watching it, endorse beauty pageants? Should they stay with wayward husbands for the sake of the family?
Frankie, Linda, Kath, Ally, and Brett are not strident feminists and activists (okay, well, Linda is) but gradually their eyes are opened to the world around them in ways that only strengthen their bonds. The journey is not without its bumps - the ladies often say the wrong things, anger each other, push each other too hard. It's these bumps that make the book feel more realistic.
I grew up in the 1960's, closer to these ladies' children's ages than to the characters', but it's a time period that remains vivid in my mind and I enjoyed reading about the events that helped shape the world and these characters' lives.