I stumbled upon this book after “meeting” the author on-line.
A very encouraging comment was made on one of my blog posts, the commentator had found me through She Writes. I try my best to respond to everyone because my posts would never be heard without the amazing readers who listen. It was a quick reply that I made – making a note to myself that I should definitely look at her website and She Write’s profile. Later, I thought. And then another wonderful comment came, beginning a short conversation. Until finally, with a steaming cup of coffee in my hand, I made the startling discovery that this blog reader was an author. And not just any author, but one whose first novel, The Language of Light, was a finalist for the Bellwether Prize and her novel, The Wednesday Sisters, was a National Bestseller.
And all I could say to her initially was, “Thank you for your encouragement…” (Open mouth, insert foot here.) Yeah, I felt about as small as a flea on an elephant’s butt.
Of course I had to rush out and buy her latest novel in order to get to know Meg better. (Is it okay to refer to her by her first name? After all, we are cyber-friends now, right? If she’s read much of my blog she knows my bra size and that I drove the wrong direction to Houston for gosh sakes!)
The cover of The Wednesday Sisters immediately intrigued me: a hard-cover journal, the pages elegantly filled, abandoned on a weathered park bench. It reminded me of the dozens of spiral notebooks and cloth-covered journals that I have filled over the years. At first glance I knew this would be a story about friendship as it blossomed over decades of history that my mother would have been more familiar, the 1960’s. Even though the passages would not embrace me in memories of historic moments of my life – I was sure to be able to relate to a story of friendship, motherhood and a love of writing.
I started this novel with the expectation of getting to know the author a little more, learn from her style and charm, and enjoy a fun summer read. Instead, I was transformed into the lives of five amazing women, that so closely resembled my own life or the lives of women around me.
Early on the tone was set when four of the women were introducing themselves to the fifth.
“But that morning, by way of explaining ourselves to Ally, we talked about what our husbands did, which was how we defined ourselves in those days: I’m a doctor’s wife, a painter’s wife, the wife of the president of the United States.”
This resonated with me in an incredibly tangible way. I remember sitting around introducing myself at a woman’s breakfast as a young, stay-at-home mom and saying, “Hi, my name is Emily and my husband DW is an engineer.” This battle of identity still exists with the few that choose not to build a career or leave the workforce to raise their children full-time. Obviously the difference now is that more women are accepted in the work place and are even the sole bread-winner of their families. With this shift in financial responsibility, I also can’t help but wonder how many men are now finding it hard to place themselves in their own identities instead of their wives.
Each historic reference gave me a greater insight and appreciation of the life that I am afforded, a life of choice and independence. It also made me think about the changes that my generation has witnessed – like an attempt on President Ronald Reagan’s life, a TWA plane hijacked and taken to Beirut, the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the Berlin wall coming down, David Koresh, OJ Simpson, and Princess Diana, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and how about the first black president. Every generation encounters life changing events, history that molds and shapes the future. Sometimes personally if we are paying attention.
I remember exactly where I was on September 11, 2001. DW and I had only been married a few months. He was at work, and I was in the middle of a Jazzercise class when one of the women started shrieking. She had just received a phone call from a family member telling her that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. At first we were in disbelief that it could be a terrorist attack, but class was cut short, we all gathered up our children and headed home. Every news station continued broadcasting the devastating, and almost debilitating news the whole way home. DW got home almost at the same time. There was nothing to say, as we spent most of the day watching the continued news coverage in silence, holding each other as close as possible.
Probably the most painful chapter to read was about how one of the women deals with her husband’s infidelity. She suffers through all the stages of grief, acting out in realistic and familiar ways. At one point she tries to use sex as a way to bring back her marriage, sacrificing her body and dignity as if her husband’s transgressions were her fault. I cried for her and I cried for myself, remembering such similar, painful moments in my life.
This novel also reminded me how important it is to support our communities, and not just the community that we live. We have a responsibility to support other women, to build them up and help them see their fullest potential. And the only way to do that effectively is to be honest about ourselves, find our own value while we learn to value others.
While attending a rally, the women were in awe of one of the speakers:
“We have been told that femininity is being smart enough to be dumb around a man,” she said. “For me, femininity consists in being myself, in not putting myself down or my sisters down.”
The Wednesday Sisters held my attention and my heart simultaneously. These women became my friends, my inspiration and my encouragement. It is a universal story not just about friendship but about infertility, depression, loss and failure, marriage, adultery, bigotry, and achieving your dreams that transcends generations. Throughout each chapter, Meg Waite Clayton elegantly and intimately gives us five ordinary women, who end up living extraordinary lives. Clayton treats us, the reader, as the sixth closest friend as we build our own relationships with these vibrant, multi-dimensional characters.
Women that I would gladly share any day of the week with.