by Jennifer Weiner
Publication: Atria: June 11, 2019
About the book: 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?
As a book blogger, obviously, I don’t do a post for every book that I read. That would take away the fun and beauty of reading if I felt I had to create a post for every book and it would also be a ton of reviews. My point is, I almost didn’t create a post for Mrs. Everything. It published in June and has been on my NetGalley shelf forever. I’ve been trying to play catch up in between other commitments, so I finally read this one. But I absolutely had to share my thoughts on this novel. Remember, these opinions are just my own, everyone feels differently about different books!
As the blurb states, the novel is about 2 sisters, Jo and Bethie, and their life events starting in the 1950s and going through the 2020s. They start with certain roles or ideas of how they see themselves, but of course as time passes, as they age, mature, etc. their lives become much different than expected. This is not an earth-shattering concept by any means. I hated school except for socializing and stayed in trouble as a teenager (my poor Dad, lol) but then ended up with a Masters in Special Education and taught for 15 years. Shocker? No, it’s called growing up. But the unoriginal concept wasn’t even the big issue with Mrs. Everything. It was the non-stop drama, angst, hardships, disappointments, loss, traumas, and so on. All of this added up to a book that was utterly and completely exhausting.
Whether you were alive in the 1950s or not you’ve been to school, read books, seen t.v. shows or movies, so you are probably somewhat familiar with how the world has changed between then and now. Some of it has been wonderful and some of it awful. Each decade has brought new things, new trends, and different ideals. I am fairly certain that every possible trend and fad in the seventy-two-year time span of this book was covered. And it made for a tedious read.
Even worse – no family can actually go through that much crap in a lifetime! It’s just not realistic. We all have bad times, trauma, tragedies, and so on. But these people never got a break. It was one horrible thing after another. There is no amount of wine that could have made this an enjoyable read for me. I wanted to crawl under the covers and just sleep, hide, or something after finishing this. I was physically tired from trying to get through this extremely long novel and emotionally worn out from the main plot and the hundreds of other subplots that went with it.
On the other hand, I have always loved Jennifer Weiner’s novels prior to this one. Some I enjoyed better than others, but I have liked them all. I’ve always been a fan of her writing style, the storylines, and the characters. My point is, I will certainly give this author another chance in the future. Thousands of readers out there seemed to love this novel, so maybe it just wasn’t a good fit for me. Maybe I didn’t like it because I grew up with a brother instead of a sister? Regardless, Mrs. Everything is not one I recommend.
*Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing this review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.