An instant New York Times bestseller "A multigenerational narrative that's nothing short of brilliant." --People "Simply unputdownable." --Good Housekeeping "The perfect book club pick." --SheReads Named a Best Book of Summer by Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Woman's Day, PopSugar, HelloGiggles, and Refinery29 From Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Do You Love and In Her Shoes comes a smart, thoughtful, and timely exploration of two sisters' lives from the 1950s to the present as they struggle to find their places--and be true to themselves--in a rapidly evolving world. Do we change or does the world change us? Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise. Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect "Dick and Jane" house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life. But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and women's lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after? In her most ambitious novel yet, Jennifer Weiner tells a story of two sisters who, with their different dreams and different paths, offer answers to the question: How should a woman be in the world?
Several questions and themes can be seen in this novel. What exactly is a woman’s role in society? As the timeline progresses, do women have more choices and decisions to make? Can one be a better mother than their mother was to them? Will women ever be considered equal to men, in education, salary, the workplace, and the family?
I appreciate that Jennifer Weiner discusses the relationships between mothers and daughters, sisters, and domestic partnerships. Also discussed are the importance of family, love, emotional support, forgiveness, acceptance, second chances, and hope.
Jo and Beth Kaufman are brought up in the 1950s and are very different. One is considered “different” and acting too “boyish” for a girl, and the other feels that being pretty is about power. One challenges the fairness in the world, and the other is more concerned with what other people think of her. Their mother shows her disappointment and favoritism. This is a traditional time when father’s work, mother’s stay at home, and everything seems to be in black and white, with little room for areas of gray.
As the years pass, and things seem to get “more” modern, there are more confusing choices and decisions for women. That area that was black and white, has expanded with more gray. Do women have to get married and have children if they don’t want to? Can women work and have a family? I highly recommend and reflect on this amazing book. I still have a book-hangover and am deep in thought!! Kudos, Jennifer Weiner for such a well-written and descriptive book!
This book, in my opinion, will be perfect for book clubs filled with people of a certain age, younger people who like to learn about modern history from the perspective of the generation who lived it, women (since this book was filled with women's issues) and the Lesbian community.
This book dealt with issues such as -bigotry, racial matters, political unrest, Lesbian issues, rape, drug addiction, cancer, early death, teenage angst, and so much more. There was very little to make you smile in this book, but a lot that will make you think and remember what life was like back then and really, still is.
*ARC supplied by publisher.
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner is an emotional roller coaster about Baby Boomer sisters Jo and Bethie. Pop culture and political landmarks set the novel in specific times and places, beginning in 1950s
Jo was the rebel, resisting girly dress and activities and early becoming involved in Civil Rights protests. She also falls in love with her best friend Lynnette. Lynnette buckles under social pressure unable to accept her sexual orientation.
Younger sister Bethie was always the perfect Jewish middle-class girl, her mother's favorite. She becomes a victim of sexual abuse and begins to alternately binge eat and starve herself. She is in a school play with Harold, who is African American, but they do not act on their mutual attraction.
Jo goes away to the University of Michigan, meeting the love of her life, Shelley. Bethie comes to visit where she is picked up by an older, drug-dealing, man who turns her onto drugs and sex, beginning a long spiral of bad choices.
When Shelley elects to marry, Jo is devastated and allows a man to woo and marry her. She loves being a mom, but as the children grow so does the distance between Jo and her husband until he betrays and leaves her.
Passivity allows bad choices to take the sisters further from their true selves while misunderstanding and anger drive a wedge between them. Meanwhile, Jo's three girls grow up and her youngest, Lila, makes her own series of bad choices.
Their stories become a synopsis of women's history from 50s housewives to the women who juggle career and family to the last question of what kind of death to choose.
As entertaining as the book was, for a long time I was not sure what its purpose was until near the end of the story when Jo summarizes a woman's struggle between expectations and self-fulfillment, how we find ourselves far from our deepest truths and struggle to come home again.
I was offered a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.
Note: The story takes place almost parallel to my own life and the cultural references were a trip down memory lane. We moved to the Detroit area in 1963 and I enjoyed all the references to the places and stores and radio stations mentioned. But...I take issue with one thing in the book--The sisters go to Suzy Q's for burgers. Burgers! It was known for its chicken! Why would they go there for burgers!
As the book opens in 1951 Jo is six years old and Bethie is four; the story ends in 2016. Jo is the sister that doesn’t care what other people think of her, while Bethie cares too much. Weiner’s description of the simple life for children in the fifties made me nostalgic for my childhood (although I was a decade later).
I enjoyed reading of the different directions life took them, but how sibling loyalty was still there. We travel with them through the sixties and the time of “free love” and drugs. We feel the conflict as their sexual identity is explored. I think there is something in this book that will strike home for everyone. While I cringed over drugs and “free love” portions it did remind me of hearing all this on the news. I was sheltered from that but knew it was out there. So to a degree I could relate. As the next two generations came along I could relate to the traits that carry on in the next generations and the frustration and dawning recognition of seeing yourself in your own children. (And blessing your parents for letting you live!)
While this is overall a more serious read that we are used to from Weiner she still gives us her special touches of humor. Example: Around page 40 she gives us a truly unique take on the Purimspiel. I dare you not to laugh!
This is a very realistic family saga that I highly recommend. Thank you to NetGalley for the advance reading copy. Opinions expressed are my own.
Growing up in 1950s Detroit, sisters Jo and Bethie Kaufman lived in a picture-perfect house. Jo was a passionate tomboy, with a love of books; Bethie was the pretty, good girl, with aspirations of being a
Things rarely end up how you imagine them to be. The sisters survive unspeakable trauma and life's tragedies. Coming of age in the time of free love, Vietnam, and women's lib, Bethie embraces the more free, hippy lifestyle, balking traditional roles. Instead it is Jo that becomes a mother, stuck on the sidelines of her life. Neither sister has the future they envisioned, but is it too late for them to live an authentic and purposeful life?
Jennifer Weiner's newest work is her most ambitious to date and it is a risk that pays off. When a novel spans decades—in this case from the 1950s to present—there is a risk of the author losing the plot and also getting swallowed up in pop culture references, but Weiner doesn't suffer these fates. What happens instead is a remarkable journey of self discovery through the ages. Her writing is rich and fluid with deeply developed, layered characters.
What is so remarkable is that in our ever-changing society, decade after decade, women are still facing the same issues. Especially with how we decide to live our lives—women are constantly berated for their own life choices whether it be to get married, to have children, or work outside the home when they are a mother. These are things that women are consistently being judged for and they are nobody's business. Let me repeat that for those of you in the back...your choices are nobody's business.
Told in dual narratives, Weiner explores the complexities of female relationships, the difficulties woman face, as well as the expectations placed on women. She tackles some heavy issues: sexuality, racism, abortion, religion, drug abuse, etc., and because of this, both Jo and Bethie's stories are engaging and important.
Jennifer, I applaud you for telling stories that so many can relate to. I understand that this book was also personal in that there is a little bit of your mother in Jo. This novel is not only timely, but incredibly moving and poignant. Appropriately titled Mrs. Everything, this book is a bit of everything for every woman.
For me, this story began as “a novel about sisters, one of whom is gay,” and successfully reinforced the importance of sisterhood and family ties. But it was also a more sophisticated exploration of women’s roles in society, and a book with such well-developed characters that I was sad to say good-bye at the end. I loved this book and heartily recommend it to any woman who has experienced the growth of feminism, women’s empowerment, and LGBTQ rights since the 1960s.
I enjoyed this multigenerational novel. Loved how certain chapters are the point of view of each sister. I received a complimentary ebook from the publisher.
Thank you NetGalley and Atria Books for a copy.
It seems as if the author did not avoid any subject in telling the story. Drugs, rape, racial tensions, unplanned pregnancy, alternative lifestyles…it’s pretty much all included. If one sister didn’t do it, the other one did. In spite of their bad behavior, they were likable girls—good girls.
It was interesting to see how their roles switched and evolved as they passed through the various stages of life. Just when I would think Jo was my favorite character, Bethie would come to the forefront and take the spotlight. By the end of the book the sisters had made their peace with the past and with how they failed each other at various times of their life. They were close and supportive—just what family is all about.
I liked this story and the author kept me engaged throughout. As far as women’s issues go, readers will either see the glass as half full or half empty. I guess it’s all in your perspective.
Thanks go to NetGalley and Atria Books for allowing me to read an advance copy and give my honest review.
You will laugh, cry and want to embrace the sisters as this absolutely absorbing family saga unfolds.
The title of the book is a double entendre, since Misses and Mrs. are homophones. The use of one or the other of the words, changes the meaning of the title. “Misses Everything” drives home the trial and error
Sarah and Ken Kaufman are the parents of Elizabeth and Josette. They are a Jewish family. The time is 1950 and they are upwardly mobil, moving out of Detroit into a modest house in the suburbs. Bethie is the goody, goody, the favorite child, who becomes a hippy, Jo is the rebel who cannot please her mother, who marches to the beat of her own drummer and is confused about her sexuality. Ken is the breadwinner and Sarah is the perfect homemaker. Uncle Mel is the rich uncle who is also a sexual predator. Mae is the housekeeper who is fired. When Jo and Mae’s daughter Frieda play together and grow to be close friends. Sarah finds it unacceptable. She believes “birds of a feather should flock together” and Frieda is black. Harold Jefferson is also black. These characters represents racial issues. Shelley Finklebein represents white privilege, Lynnette is a lesbian, Dave Braverman represents infidelity, Nonie represents betrayal, and on and on. The characters seemed typecast for their roles and they played them well.
For the next seven decades, the book focuses on the Kaufmans and their extended family as they move into their individual futures, as the children marry and grandchildren are born, in sickness and in health, as similar personality traits reappear in future generations with similar growing pains, as marriages flourish or collapse, as families prosper or fail, as individuals come of age or become dysfunctional.
The sisters, Jo and Bethie, are very close. Jo is often Bethie’s savior when she makes foolish decisions. Jo, in her frustration often has emotional outbursts. Sarah and Ken seem like an idyllic couple until tragedy strikes. The times were so different. Without Ken, money becomes an issue. Women had little opportunity. Women went to college to find a husband. Men went to become professionals. The roles of women and men were more clearly defined, presenting little opportunity for a woman to independently raise a family.
When the novel begins, racism is common, women have few rights, children are to be seen and not heard, religious discrimination and quotas exist, World War II has only been over for a few years, Israel is a new country, there are no cell phones, computers or space shuttles! In the following decades, new ideas and lifestyles are birthed, yet many of the same social problems and prejudices still exist today. The novel is a story about taking responsibility for one’s actions, living life to the fullest, reaching for the stars in order to obtain what one wants to achieve in spite of obstacles, having courage to do new things and to face one’s problems head on. It is a novel that will be very nostalgic for many of the readers who will have lived through many of the same experiences as they came of age.
I have very mixed feelings about this book. It covers about seven decades of the Kaufman family as it grows. While I thought the issues presented in the book were very relevant, depression, suicide, white privilege, male toxicity, loss, illness, antisemitism, sexism, racism, backroom abortion, emotional/mental problems, eating disorders, interracial marriage, lesbian life, homosexuality, infidelity, betrayal, divorce, drug addiction, rape, sexual abuse, white privilege and more, I felt that the overabundance of issues involving one family pushed its credibility. It felt more like a handbook put out by Progressives sometimes, than a novel. Still, even with that, I recommend the book. The issues were presented in authentic situations, even though the characters often seemed like stereotypes.
Warning: There is graphic sex between two women which although done well, I could have done without it. I was choosing to read a novel, not what was once considered borderline pornography
I'd started this last year and it was easy to fall back into the rhythm of the writing and recall what had happened to the sisters since the beginning of the book.
The novel ends just before the 2016 US Presidential election. Knowing what's happened since then this book made me wistful about the hope present during that time. I'm younger than Jo and Bethie but I recall the hope that a woman reaching the highest political office would be a tangible achievement that women would be believed when they said something horrible was done to them by a man, that women could finally have true autonomy over our bodies, and be treated with respect by all.
Weiner deftly transitions between the two stories. They orbit each other, like moons on different rotations around the planet known as their childhood, coming together on occasion to have shared experiences. I really enjoyed that each character was fleshed out and had her own story in addition to their shared story.
You will laugh, cry and want to embrace the sisters as this absolutely absorbing family saga unfolds.
The two sisters are Jo and Bethie Kaufman. Their father died when they were quite young and their mother struggles to make ends meet which
It wasn't until I read some online reviews that I realized that the two sisters share the names of two of the sisters in Little Women. To me, that's all they share in common but I suppose that if Little Women had been written in the 21st century it might have turned out to have some similarities to this book.