Title: Mrs. Everything
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Published: June 2019
Genre(s): Women’s Fiction, Literary Fiction
Summary: Spanning half a century, this story tells the journey of two sisters from their formative years of childhood through aging adulthood. Jo is the older sister who struggles to meet her mother’s expectations of what a girl ought to be. She finds this to be a societal norm she struggles with in a time when a girl is meant to wear dresses, worry about appearances, marry a man, and raise children. Jo has a hard time finding where she fits in with society’s expectations for her. Bethie is the younger sister and the absolute apple of her mother’s eye. She is exactly what a girl out to be. She obsessively worries about her appearance, to unhealthy measures, finds herself to be beloved by men, whether she wants it or not, and is always able to fit in with the cool crowd. Although the two sisters are nothing alike, they are similar in that they feel squelched by the limited opportunities afforded to women in their time.
Why I Recommend: This is my very first Jennifer Weiner novel! I have several of her books on my TBR, but just never got around to it. When this book was available on Netgalley (Thank you!!) I snatched it up and moved it to the top of my list. From what I have read about this book, it is my understanding that this book is a bit more of a foray into literary fiction than her novels normally venture. It was a tome of a book and although at times it felt unnecessarily long, it certainly warranted the pages most of the time with it’s grand scope and long timeline. The writing was enjoyable, and Weiner ended up creating two characters that plucked at my heart strings. There were several tear-wrenching moments as I felt for one character or the other as they faced one barrier after another, whether it be their gender, sexual orientation, appearance, or any number of other life choices they made. Although I know the world I live in now is not one that is perfect, it was glaringly clear to me how hard it was to be a woman in the not-too-distant past that this book covers. The bandwidth in which it was deemed acceptable to operate as a woman was so narrow. It was painful as these characters either sacrificed acceptance to live their own truths or gave up their true self to conform to societal norms. To watch these characters journey throughout the decades as women’s rights transformed all the way to seeing Hillary Clinton running for president, was really powerful and goosebump producing.
This book reminded me a lot of John Boyne’s Heart of Invisible Furies in the way it checked in with the same character in regular increments throughout their lives. It also covered characters who have something about their identity that was not accepted by their community in their younger years that becomes more accepted in recent history. There is something about that specific story-telling technique that I find so compelling and powerful – it underscores the human element to human issues that I might not experience firsthand or never really stop to think about beyond conceptualization.
Weiner does not shy away from realistic depictions of love, hate, and everything in between, so prepare yourself for some graphic scenes. There is also some sexual abuse in this, so please be aware of that before embarking. Other than being a little lengthy, I would whole-heartedly recommend this one!