Whether we like it or not,when we grow up with siblings, we are assigned roles within the family. However, that does not mean that we stay within those roles as adults.
Jennifer Weiner’s new novel, Mrs. Everything, starts in the 1950’s. Jo and Bethie Kaufman are living an idyllic middle class life in Detroit. Jo is the rebel and the tomboy. Bethie is the little lady and conformist. But their adult roles will not match their childhood roles.
Over the next couple of decades, personal experience and the outside changing world will switch their roles. Jo becomes the suburban wife and mother. Bethie is the rebel who never quite settles down. Though both women seem to be settled as adults, they both question if they have made the right choices in life.
This book is amazing. The details of the time periods that she writes in are superb. I love that the sisters are fully formed, they are so different, but somehow incredibly similar. I also loved that the human quality of the relationships between the female characters. The relationships between the girls and their mother, between Jo and Bethie (a lovely nod to Little Women), between Jo and her daughters was absolutely perfect.
Harper Lee starting her writing career in a fashion that most writers can only dream of. Knowing that she wanted to write for a living, friends of hers gave her the Christmas gifts of all Christmas gifts: they paid her salary for one year, freeing her up from the juggling act of maintaining a full-time job and attempting to write. The result of that year is To Kill A Mockingbird, one of the most beloved and respected novels of the 20th century.
Harper Lee was one of the lucky ones. The rest of us have to find the balance between our full-time jobs, our families, whatever else we have to deal with and (hopefully being paid for) writing. This challenge (which seems to be universal among all writers) is addressed in the non fiction collection of essays, Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living Book Review. Edited by Manjula Martin (editor of the now defunct Scratch Magazine), the collection contains interviews and essays by well-known writers such as Roxane Gay, Jennifer Weiner and Nicky Hornby.
I really, really appreciated this book. What made me appreciate it is the universal struggle of all writers. Especially in the beginning, when we are starting our careers and hoping that our dreams come to fruition.
Having a sibling, especially a sister, is a tricky thing. She could either be your best friend or the person you can barely tolerate, but have to for the sake of your parents or your family.
In 2003, Jennifer Weiner published In Her Shoes. Maggie and Rose Feller are sisters, but are as different as night and day. Maggie is drop dead gorgeous, but has drifted in life. Her elder sister Rose is college educated and has a successful career as a lawyer, but her self esteem is in the dumps. The only thing they have in common is shoes. Rose’s career allows her to buy as many shoes as she likes, but she hides them in her closet. Maggie finds her sister’s shoes and happily wears them to Rose’s chagrin. Their relationship is nearly broken when Maggie sleeps with Rose’s boyfriend. Then they discover the maternal grandmother whom they have never met and the family secrets that have been buried for a very long time.
Last week, I wrote a Throwback Thursday post about the movie adaptation of this book. I got around to reading the book this week. The book is quite hefty plot wise for what is essentially a light read. Maybe it’s because I saw the movie first, but I feel like the author could have trimmed the plot a little. It’s not uncommon that when a book is made into a movie, changes are made. But the book didn’t do it for me like the movie did.
Ah, sisters. She can either be your best friend, your worst enemy or something in between.
In In Her Shoes (2005), Rose (Toni Collette) and Maggie (Cameron Diaz) don’t have the best relationship. Rose is the responsible straight laced lawyer, while Maggie is the wild child who has yet to get her act together. The relationship is nearly severed when Maggie sleeps with Rose’s boyfriend. It takes the discovery of their unknown grandmother Ella (Shirley MacLaine) to bring the sisters back together and heal decades old family wounds.
I like this movie. Based on the book of the same name by Jennifer Weiner, the relationship between Maggie and Rose feels very real. The story really starts to move forward when we meet Ella and we learn about Ella’s late daughter (Rose and Maggie’s mother), who had issues that nearly destroyed her family.