Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review: The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

When I was in college, I wrote a collection of short stories for my senior independent study thesis. I remember that the stories came to me hard and fast and I was not terribly popular amongst my friends when I admitted I was finished with the I.S. long before it was due (my college required this of everyone). Since that time though, really the only writing I've done has been here on the blog and I don't really consider myself a writer in the way that so many other people are writers. But that doesn't mean I haven't sometimes wanted to be a real writer, someone who is compelled to write, not someone who just tosses off a blog entry here or there when the spirit moves me. And then I remember how much work it is to write, rewrite, and revise, revise, revise. Sounds arduous and lonely, doesn't it? It isn't always though. Many writers have a writing group of some sort, a group of trusted readers and fellow writers who make their solitary work not so solitary and help them resolve problems and make their work shine. This is just the sort of group the main characters in Meg Waite Clayton's novel, The Wednesday Sisters, create.

It is the 1960s in Palo Alto, California and Frankie has just moved to town with her husband. In hopes of combatting her loneliness in this new place, she takes her kids to the local park looking to make friends with the group of women who appear there daily. The women are a varied bunch who initially come together at the playground over their children. There's Allie, Kath, Linda, and Brett. Though they are different politically and from different backgrounds, they become friends thanks to their shared love of books, meeting at the playground, getting together to watch the Miss America pageant, and even creating a writing group after Frankie suggests it, each of them working at her own pace towards writing a novel. The women become a tight group of friends who weather not only the amazing time in history they live through, but also the sorts of large and small events that fill each of their lives: divorce, infidelity, infertility, cancer, standing up to the prejudice against interracial marriage, deploring the lack of opportunity for women in athletics, and more. The Wednesday Sisters group is not just a writing critique group, they are a group of friends who are ready and waiting for the nascent move toward more options for women beyond simply being wives and mothers.

Clayton has created a lovely tale of female friendship and creativity peppered with the changing times of the sixties and the seventies. All of the women are forging new lives for themselves, stretching themselves beyond the expected roles imposed on them by society and their husbands. Each of the women is very distinctive as Frankie tells the story of the group through the years so that there's no confusion over which of the friends is the one around whom the group is rallying at any given point in the narrative. The characters seem to each represent a different aspect of feminism, which could be a bit clich├ęd, but the genuine, caring support system, one not without its clashes incidentally, they create for each other makes the portrayals feel more real than the stereotypes would suggest. The plot is evenly paced and while there's no real surprising climax, there doesn't necessarily need to be one. A heartwarming, nice tale, this is an ode to the importance of women's friendships and to nurturing creativity, over all a lovely and empowering novel.

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