Book Review: Mrs Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Mrs Everything is a compelling American family saga published by Simon and Schuster on 11th June. Thank you to the publishers for my digital advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

The story of two very different sisters Jo and Bethie begins in the 1950’s and comes right up to date with the #MeToo movement. This is a novel that highlights a society experiencing a sexual and political awakening. Through the staid years of the 1950’s, to the civil rights and anti war protests of the 1960’s, the Women’s liberation movement of the 1970’s, we follow these two women. From the outset it seems their lives are predetermined but surprising circumstances and equally surprising decisions carry the women along different paths. Nothing is predictable and if you think you know where this story is going you probably don’t!

Spanning three generations, this is a book about over coming societal norms and ploughing your own furrow. This is a story of discovery, of what it costs to find yourself, to be comfortable in your own skin. It is a novel that explore the idea that there may things in your own make up you have to make peace with in order to live a fulfilling life. It is about giving yourself permission to learn from your mistakes and the strength to reinvent yourself.

Encompassing issues of sexuality and racial diversity Weiner has created an authentic cast of characters trying to find their way in a rapidly evolving world.

As much as this is a novel about society, outward looking and including defining moments of the 20th Century, it is also a novel concerned with character and how families function. Weiner has much to say about how our family relationships are often the bedrock of our lives and asks, ‘Do we let these relationships define us, even restrict us? Or do we take strength from the positives and disregard the rest?’

Perhaps most importantly, this a novel with feminism at its heart . It is a novel championing strong women characters, each on their own individual journey, each trying to come to terms with what they need and what society and their families seem to demand of them. Weiner’s clever use of believable and inter generational stories serve to illustrate how far the women’s rights movement has come and, also, how far it still has to go.

Weiner is portraying sisterhood, in it’s truest form. Not all female characters are heroines; indeed there are some true and deep betrayals along the way, and neither all men one dimensional monsters. But, as the novel unfolds, there is a sense of women coming together, across cultures and across the years to watch each other’s backs and smooth life’s bumpy road. In essence Weiner is trying to explore that age old question, can we really have it all? Can we be Mrs Everything? What defines us or more importantly what do we let define us?

Something in the novel’s tone reminded me of another great American novel of sisterhood, Louisa May Alcott’s timeless Little Women. Were the key characters in Mrs Everything named for two of those sisters of long ago? I don’t know, but in this readers mind they are definitely linked.

Mrs Everything is about real women, living real lives and making real choices. It is relevant, readable and charming. With a host of strong characters it is hard not to find something to relate to within its pages.

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