Read by Ari Graynor and Beth Malone
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started Mrs. Everything, Weiner’s 2019 decades-spanning family drama about two sisters who grow up in Detroit during the 1950s. I’d read All Fall Down and remembered it as a semi-light read that covered serious issues. In that sense, the two books are similar, but at 480 pages (and close to 17 hours of listening), Mrs. Everything covers a lot more ground.
Jo and Bethie Kaufman are young girls when their parents move them from a racially-diverse apartment in Detroit to a mostly Jewish, and safer residential neighborhood just outside the city. Early on, their stay-at-home mother tells them that “birds of a feather must flock together,” based on her own painful childhood experiences as the daughter of immigrant parents. When their father dies, Jo, Bethie and their mother must learn to fend for themselves.
Jo is tall, strong and athletic, the classic tomboy, and Bethie is rounder, pretty and loves everything girly. Both girls struggle to find their own way and face many obstacles. Jo knows she’s different. She only likes girls, but must decide between what was then an unacceptable lifestyle or the conventional route of marriage and children. Bethie, a promising singer and stage performer, learns early that being pretty can attract the wrong kind of attention and enters a ten-year-long period of self-destruction.
Mrs. Everything is historical in that in addition to cultural, political, and social references, it covers major national and political events, wars, civil rights protests and women’s rights movements. To add color to her story, Weiner also includes trends, fashions, music, popular foods, descriptions of homes and interior décor. Present-day problems focus on women’s struggles in the modern world and highlight the Me Too movement.
I don’t like criticizing a book that supports worthy issues, but Mrs. Everything is an exhausting read in that it covers every single bad thing that could happen to a family and is a certifiable man-hater book. Most of the men in the story are terrible people, with only two exceptions: the deceased father and Bethie’s husband, a minor character. I found this approach very one-sided and unrealistic. Although I didn’t try to verify every date and fact, other readers have been critical of the author’s inaccurate references to time and place. I will say that I think that the author is very casual with some of her descriptions and plot lines. Maybe that doesn’t matter. I found it a little annoying.
Reviews of Mrs. Everything are mostly positive (It’s a New York Times Best Seller), but I’m not alone in my opinion and best seller doesn’t always mean it’s good. In the end, I’d say that this type of book just isn’t for me. To help you make your own decision, here are three bloggers’ reviews.
Have you read Mrs. Everything? What did you think? Leave a comment!
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