When I saw this title come out a year ago, I was hyped. JENNIFER WEINER is a New York Times bestselling author, and I typically find her books engaging and hard to put down. And her newest title, “MRS. EVERYTHING,” does not disappoint. This multigenerational novel that spans six decades is about two sisters and how their lives are altered by the events around them.
Bethie and Jo Kaufman are young girls growing up in Detroit during the 1950s. Younger, beautiful, self-assured Bethie is more easily understood by their mother, as she is drawn to clothes, boys and knows she is destined to be a star; whereas, smart, tomboyish Jo — who much prefers dungarees over a dress and itchy tights — better relates to their father.
It is easy to see that Bethie will grow up, marry her high school sweetheart and mother equally adorable children, while Jo will struggle to find a place where she fits in the world and may eventually — if she is lucky — carve out a path that works for her.
However, these cliched roles do not hold true. Key events transpire that send each girl down much different paths. Jo’s differences give her the need to conform, and she is compelled to live a life untrue to herself for much of her life, while Bethie eventually feels the need to rebel and not walk the path that everyone has laid out for her.
To share more would give away too much of this novel. Throughout, Weiner explores each character’s choices. The novel covers various topics that include the loss of a parent, sexual experimentation and rebellion.
While the novel is predictable at times, it is also compelling. Weiner’s use of alternating chapters, told by each sister, moves the story along and draws in the audience. This double perspective balances the story and creates a richer viewpoint. Readers will want to see what happens in this brilliant tale focused on emotionally tough subjects such as family, hardship, love and loss.
Jeana Gockley is the director of the Joplin Public Library.