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?
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This was my first Jennifer Weiner novel and I was not disappointed. Mrs. Everything did have everything. It followed two sisters from 1950 to the present day, where they had their shares of ups and downs. I found that the novel was a bit detailed and was surprised that I was only half way through when the sisters were going through adulthood.
At times I struggled to connect with the sisters. I found that I was see-sawing with whether or not I actually liked the sisters. I disliked Bethie when she was giving away life advice to Jo’s friends, making it look like she was better than them, when she didn’t have her life together.
3 calculators out of a potential 5. An average read, but it has made me want to explore Jennifer Weiner’s earlier novels. Recommendations are welcome!