Updated: Mar 30, 2020
I am not sure what rock I was living under, but Mrs. Everything was my first Jennifer Weiner novel. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC from Net Galley and Atria Books, in exchange for an honest review. Mrs. Everything caused a swirl of hype when it was published on June 11, 2019 and, because of that, I wanted to wait until it died down before I dove in. Sometimes buzz around a book gives me unrealistic expectations and I like to go into it clear minded and open. This book was rich with character development. It was a slow burn that picked up over time and is something to be appreciated. Weiner did a wonderful job bringing the characters and the decades to life.
Mrs. Everything is a riveting, emotional saga of the lives of two sisters, Jo and Bethie Kaufman, born to conservative Jewish parents in Detroit, Michigan. It follows their lives from young girls in the 1950s, through college in the 1960s, through marriage, children, and life exploration. From a young age, Bethie has been the "good child" in the family, wearing her hair in curls and pressed dresses, while Jo was the "rebel child" who preferred men's shirts and sports practice. Jo always felt misunderstood by her mother and hid her sexual preference of women, ultimately winding up settled down in marriage with children. Bethie lived her life striving to make others happy and to be the "perfect girl," until she ventured off the beaten path in college, exploring an alternative world full of sex, drugs, and free living.
Jo and Bethie find their own way in the world, both following different paths, but ultimately ending up together in the end. It is a heart wrenching story of what being a woman is, discovering who you are, and finding where you are supposed to be in the world. They each experience different hardships and traumas, working through them in different ways, and struggle with finding themselves in the world.
Throughout each decade, there is a different perspective of what a woman should be vs. what Jo and Bethie desire for their lives. As children, they grew up in a suburban neighborhood, with predominately white families living next door, food on the table every evening made by their homemaker mother, and supported by their father's wages. They watched their mother spend her days cleaning and cooking, while their father went out into the world and worked for a living. Jo strives not to be like her mother, but ultimately ends up just like her, while Bethie strives to be like her mother, but falls on the opposite path. They both grow up in a world where a man can be whatever he wants, but a women needs to fit into a certain mold. As the climate changes in the 1960s through 2000s, after the world endures a wars, assassinated president, scandals, and women breaking the glass ceiling, Jo and Bethie discover who they are, who they want to be, and what being a woman truly is.
Mrs. Everything covers challenging topics such as racism, sexual abuse and assault, emotional abuse, abortion, sexuality, mental health, and death. Trigger warning for those who are sensitive to any of these topics.
I gave Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner ★★★★. To be honest, there were times in the beginning where I felt like putting it down, but I am glad I pushed through. As Jo and Bethie grew, the story slowly picked up and every life experience made the story richer and stronger. I loved the concept of following these two sisters throughout their entire life and growing to know and love them. Jo and Bethie are such different women, but are also so alike in many ways. Their life paths went in different directions, but I loved how they converged in the end and the ending was perfect. It completely tied the novel together. There were times when the character's had memories mid story, which was confusing at times, but did not throw me of completely. I loved the large concept of this story, that most women can relate to feeling like they need to be "Mrs. Everything." That is something I could relate to on a deep level and I feel that most women can, as well.
Overall, Mrs. Everything was beautifully written with rich prose and amazing character development. This is definitely a character driven novel and is not a fast read, but well worth the time.
***Thank you to Net Galley and Atria Books for the ARC of Mrs. Everything, in exchange for an honest review.***