i had high expectations. it's underwhelming.
I was hoping to like this more than I did. Meg Wolitzer’s 11th book is about a friendship between a young woman (Greer Kadetsky) and an older, feminist icon (Faith Frank). The plot is cool enough (I like the idea of a college student, iconic feminist, and a life changing mentorship), but there’s not enough compelling content to underpin the plot development. I struggle to find anything special or even vaguely unique in the relationship between Greer and Faith. Greer claims that “a revelatory gong had been struck” inside her when she first heard Faith speak at Ryland College. This is odd because Faith says very little of substance. She reiterates what feminism is and why it’s important for us to be feminists (I’m not going to quote the whole section, but it’s pages 27-29). It’s 2006 and this is very basic stuff. We’re supposed to believe these are revolutionary thoughts for Greer (a straight-A student who got into Yale and reads feminist blogs in her spare time). Doesn’t make sense to me.
Here’s an aside, but I can’t for the life of me figure out whether Wolitzer really believes that women are inherently gentler than men in their approaches to power. When Greer cuts her finger while slicing onions at Faith’s house, the famous feminist cleans and bandages the wound. Greer reflects, “The light touch of this powerful woman was profound. So too was her choice to use power in this tender way. Maybe that’s what we want from women…Maybe that’s what we imagine it would be like to have woman to lead us.” Is Wolitzer mocking this “tender” view of female power? I'm not quite sure this is satirical.
Lastly, Greer’s frequent attempts to encourage shy women to use their “outside voice” irritate me: (1) it’s condescending and (2) it’s not original. There’s an entire fitness brand called “Outdoor Voices.” It’s not small. Vogue recently ran an article called, “How Outdoor Voices is Taking Over the Fitness Apparel World.”
I wanted to like this. Meg Wolitzer has been outspoken about the ways in which literature written by women is judged more harshly than similar literature written by men. Wolitzer mentions Franzen and Eugenides as examples of male authors who rely heavily on the themes of relationships and family, but still have robust male readership. Unfortunately, literary fiction written by women is frequently marketed exclusively to women: “Both men and women read books by men, but books by women are far more likely to be read by women than by men." I wanted to love this book and then tell all my male friends to read it. I’m sorry to say, I won't go out of my way to recommend this.