Title: The Wednesday Sisters
Author: Meg Waite Clayton
Publication Date: 2008
Reason for Reading: Local library book club pick
For thirty-five years, Frankie, Linda, Kath, Brett, and Ally have met every Wednesday at the park near their homes in Palo Alto, California. Defined when they first meet by what their husbands do, the young homemakers and mothers are far removed from the Summer of Love that has enveloped most of the Bay Area in 1967. These “Wednesday Sisters” seem to have little in common: Frankie is a timid transplant from Chicago, brutally blunt Linda is a remarkable athlete, Kath is a Kentucky debutante, quiet Ally has a secret, and quirky, ultra-intelligent Brett wears little white gloves with her miniskirts. But they are bonded by a shared love of both literature–Fitzgerald, Eliot, Austen, du Maurier, Plath, and Dickens–and the Miss America Pageant, which they watch together every year.
As the years roll on and their children grow, the quintet forms a writers circle to express their hopes and dreams through poems, stories, and, eventually, books. Along the way, they experience history in the making: Vietnam, the race for the moon, and a women’s movement that challenges everything they have ever thought about themselves, while at the same time supporting one another through changes in their personal lives brought on by infidelity, longing, illness, failure, and success.
My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. Of the novels I have read this year for the library’s book group in which I partake, this was my favorite. It interested me because it took place in the 1960s-70s, which was a time of great change in the US. It interested me because the characters–the five ladies–were all homemakers. While we prefer the term stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) nowadays, I do the same that they did–well, adjusting for the difference in what activities people partake. The difference being that I CHOOSE to be a SAHM, whereas they were more “thrust” into that role because of the times.
Usually I have more thoughts on the book after our group discusses it–it makes me think about it a little more when others say they did or didn’t like a certain aspect of the story. I admit my thoughts are typically superficial as I don’t usually look for much meaning in “symbols” in the books I read. Just like I pretty much take films at their face value as entertainment, I do the same with books.
One thing that really made me think about the role of men and women in this story was this:
We assumed the formulas developed by male scientists in jackets and ties must be better for our babies than anything we girls could produce. (p229)
One of the characters had a baby and this was brought up. It might be because of my own personal love of breastfeeding my daughter that this particular moment in the story caught my attention. I’m really just irked that this was even true of the times. I’ve gathered it to be the case from watching Call the Midwife (a BBC show set in the 1960s in London) that it was during that time when formula really became so popular. It’s like one of those “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” thing to me–female humans (and mammals in general) have breastfed babies for thousands of years, so why, when doing so was the norm, did formula even need to be created?? Anyways, that’s not the point of the story–just a part of the book that I remember the best.