The Wrong Kind of Woman: A Novel

by Sarah McCraw Crow

Hardcover, 2020




MIRA (2020), Edition: Original, 320 pages


"In late 1970, Oliver Desmarais drops dead in his front yard while hanging Christmas lights. In the year that follows, his widow, Virginia, struggles to find her place on the campus of the elite New Hampshire men's college where Oliver was a professor. While Virginia had always shared her husband's prejudices against the four outspoken, never-married women on the faculty - dubbed the Gang of Four by their male counterparts - she now finds herself depending on them, even joining their work to bring the women's movement to Clarendon College.Soon, though, reports of violent protests across the country reach this sleepy New England town, stirring tensions between the fraternal establishment of Clarendon and those calling for change. As authorities attempt to tamp down "radical elements," Virginia must decide whether she's willing to put herself and her family at risk for a cause that had never felt like her own.Told through alternating perspectives, The Wrong Kind of Woman is an engrossing story about finding the strength to forge new paths, beautifully woven against the rapid changes of the early 1970s."--Publisher description.… (more)


(8 ratings; 3.1)

User reviews

LibraryThing member bookchickdi
Sarah McCraw Crow's novel The Wrong Kind of Woman, set in the 1970s, opens with Virginia's husband Oliver dying of an aneurysm in front of their thirteen year-old daughter Rebecca. Oliver was a history professor at Clarendon, an all-boy's college in New Hampshire.

Virginia is devastated by Oliver's
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premature death, as is Rebecca, who adored her father. Virginia taught an art history class at the college, so in addition to dealing with the emotional loss of her husband, she has to deal with the financial loss of his income.

We also meet Sam, a student at Clarendon who was in the faculty/student jazz band with Oliver. He admired Oliver and enjoyed his friendship as he didn't fit in with the other young men at school. After Sam ends up partnering with Jerry, a Vietnam vet, on a project, Jerry brings Sam to the commune where he is staying.

Sam is enchanted by Elodie, a young woman from the commune. Elodie wants to see change in society, perhaps by any means necessary. She is planning something, will Sam get himself involved to win her affection?

The most interesting character to me is Louise, a professor in the history department. She was the only female tenured professor at the college, one of only four women professors. They were called the Gang of Four, and following Oliver's death, Louise invited Virginia to join them for an evening out.

It was an eye-opening experience for Virginia. Although Oliver didn't like Louise, he found her too pushy, Virginia liked these women, especially Louise. They spoke of their difficult experiences at the college, and their desire to make Clarendon a coed institution.

I would have liked to have seen more of Louise and the other female professors. I found their stories so intriguing, and the scene where they invited two women to speak at the college was very strong. It reminded me of the FX miniseries Mrs. America, which I enjoyed immensely. There are even a few mentions of Shirley Chisholm and Bella Abzug, who were prominently featured in that series.

Virginia has her consciousness raised by economic necessity; she needed to get a better paying job for herself and Rebecca. She was close to getting her PhD, and Louise convinces her that she can do it, and they will help her in any way they can.

There are many 1970s touchstones in this novel for those of us who remember that era. Who else spent their Friday nights watching The Brady Bunch followed by The Partridge Family? And we all remember Tim Conway trying to make Harvery Korman laugh in The Carol Burnett Show skits.

The Wrong Kind of Woman mines some of the same territory as Jennifer Weiner's wonderful 2018 novel, Mrs. Everything, taking the macroview of women's lives in the 1970s through the microview of the women in these novels, allowing the reader to see the tumultous times through these women's eyes.

Thanks to MIRA Books for putting me on Sarah McCraw Crow's book tour.
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LibraryThing member froxgirl
This novel is a curiously lifeless recreation of what should have been an exciting exploration of the Wonder Year that was 1970. Set at a thinly disguised male-only Dartmouth College, there's Virginia, who's suddenly widowed and when her non-tenured professor husband suffers an aneurysm; her
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daughter Rebecca, still in junior high but longing for independence while mourning her dad; and Sam, a computer nerd of unsettled sexuality, who loses his virginity to a budding Weatherwoman. There are some enjoyable scenes, especially one when the Boston Women's Collective comes to teach meeting attendees how to examine their cervixes, but the roiling tides of change portrayed here, including the advent of women students, is just lacking in drama.
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LibraryThing member Darcia
I love stories set in the sixties and seventies, and I’m from New England, where this one takes place. Sounded like a perfect fit for me. Turns out, I’m not the right kind of woman to read The Wrong Kind of Woman.

A great thing I can tell you is that the author captures the feel of the era,
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particularly in regards to women’s roles in academia.

The rest didn’t work for me.

Pacing is slow throughout, at times bordering on stagnant.

We have multiple narrators, which I usually enjoy, but here the switches are sudden and unclear. Often I’d read a paragraph or two before realizing we’d switched to a new narrator.

Along with that, timeline jumps are also unclear. We’d move to a later time in the day, the next day, or maybe many days ahead, without any indications, leaving us to reorient ourselves in the story.

Within this murky content, we also have characters reliving memories, but these scenes aren’t always clearly flashbacks, so this jolts us out of the moment as we try to figure out, again, where we are in the story.

And, finally, I wanted more complexities and depth. I didn’t feel the intensity of emotions this story should have elicited.

But this is just my opinion. Some readers have loved this book, as you might.

*I received a review copy from the publisher, via NetGalley.*
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Original language


Physical description

320 p.; 9.21 inches


0778310078 / 9780778310075
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