Editorial note: I received a copy of Mrs. Everything in exchange for a review.
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner is an incredible book that will make you cry but also hopeful at the same time. If you think this is just a basic summer read or perhaps that it’s overhyped, you’ll miss out on one of the best stories of the year.
There are some authors who feel like old friends—even if you’ve never met them. Jennifer Weiner is that kind of author for me. Her books marked my transition from young adult to adult books. Her first book I read was In Her Shoes, which has remained my favorite of hers—until Mrs. Everything. Both stories feature complicated relationship between sisters. But where Mrs. Everything gets the edge is the epic style storytelling as well as focusing on two sisters’ lives from the 1950s to the present as they struggle to find their places—and be true to themselves—in a rapidly evolving world.
Jo and Bethie Kaufman grow up in 1950s Detroit, which 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?
The eras of Mrs. Everything
One of the main aspects that stick out is how well researched this novel is—you can tell that Jennifer Weiner put so much work into ensuring that the eras felt true to life. Everything from the clothes, the way people talk and act to the music, all make you feel as if you’re transported back in time. There’s an authenticity to every aspect of those eras.
Something that also resonated is just how hard it was for women—especially in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. It’s still mindblogging that women were not able to apply for a credit card until 1975. Big WTF there. While there’s still a long way to go for women’s human rights, gender equality (hello, equal pay now) and more—this is a reminder that it used to be much worse but that also the fight never stops until true equality is achieved.
The dynamics between sisters is unlike any other—and can be the most complicated one of them all. I was so engaged with Jo and Bethie’s storylines. And while close, there is a distance between them. As they grow older, they both get envious of each other’s lives while not fully understanding the sacrifices that come with it. They can be equal parts loyal and cruel to each other but through it all there’s a bond that can never be broken.
While Mrs. Everything is lengthy (481 pages), spend some time with this story full of many layers. This is an ideal one for book clubs so click here for my discussion questions.