Saturday, May 22, 2010

Book #1: The Wednesday Sisters

As I mentioned earlier, I love the time that summer affords to do more reading. I made a trip to the library last weekend, and stocked up on a variety of books that I hoped to get through within the three-week borrowing period. I'll inevitably have to renew some, but my goal in getting several was that I'd commit the time to doing the reading.

I thought it would be worth sharing a brief review of the different books I read, in the event someone stumbles upon my blog and wants to pick one up for his- or herself. I am definitely not a professional book critic, these are just my humble two cents.

The first book of the summer that I just finished is The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton. Clayton writes about a group of five women living in Palo Alto, CA in the late 1960s. They meet in the park where they take their children to play, and form a friendship that blooms out of their shared interest in writing and a yearning for something more in their lives that can fulfill their intellectual and creative desires during a time when they are expected to be "just mothers." Throughout the story, Clayton describes their experiences with the changes happening in the society around them, including the Vietnam War, the space race, and the women's movement. Their lives become intertwined and they navigate together through a number of successes, challenges, and tragedies. Their sisterhood may not be one in blood, but they clearly form a family together.

The book is on several recommendation lists for book clubs, and I can clearly see why. The women's shared love of reading would be an interesting parallel for any book club. I loved getting to know each of the five women better: Frankie, Ally, Brett, Linda, and Kath. And I enjoyed the historical elements that were woven through the plot. The advances in technology and medicine were a big focus in their lives, as the narrator's husband works for Intel at its start, and other characters face medical issues treated very differently back during that time.

As someone who is not yet a wife or a mother, I found the historical view of motherhood very interesting. When one of the characters looks for a job, she is confronted by the men who are hiring, who wonder why she would want to leave her kids or be anything other than a mother. It is interesting to think about where the discussion is now, roughly 50 years later, after women have made so many strides forward in education and the workplace. To think about the current choices, and the challenges that come with them. The challenge often discussed now for working mothers to be not just effective, but outstanding in both realms. The criticism of a mother who chooses to be "just a mom" versus a career woman. The financial constraints that may be present in homes where only one parent works. Definitely a relevant conversation.

Beyond that, I think the novel is a great story about friendship, and how we all long to have friends and to belong to something. There are so many good books about groups of women, and this is definitely one to add to the list.

Here's a reading guide that was posted on the author's site, for anyone who is interested.

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