I Loved The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
I’m always intrigued by stories about women’s development, and The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton delivers, both in terms of the friendship among five women, and their personal growth over the years as told in flashback by the narrator, Mary Frances “Frankie” O’Mara. Set against a fascinating backdrop of the 1960s, Frankie is married to a computer genius in pre-Silicon Valley Palo Alto, California. As she brings her children to the neighborhood park, she meets first Linda, then the mysteriously begloved Brett, then southern debutante Kath, and finally the lost girl, Ally. The women, affluent housewives all, bond over a shared love of reading. When Linda urges them to try writing, they begin bringing their fiction to the park each Wednesday to critique each other and offer support. As the writing progresses, we learn that all of them have difficulties to overcome. Linda, whose mother died young from breast cancer, finds her own ways to fight the disease. Kath can’t make herself perfect enough to keep her husband around. Ally, married in those early, color-conscious days to an Indian-American, suffers the effects of that along with the agony of repeated miscarriages. Brett, who would have been an astronaut if born thirty years later, hides her intellect and her ambitions. Frankie is the main story, telling about her friends while she struggles to find herself. I’m impressed with Clayton’s deftness in weaving together the stories of these five women while keeping up a compelling pace. I didn’t want to put the book down, but I also didn’t want to rush; their personalities and struggles are meant to be savored. As a writer I was also amused and not a little envious at Clayton's ability to sprinkle in the mystery – why WAS Brett wearing those gloves? The only question I have is whether a bunch of women, being that close of friends, would really not have asked about Brett’s gloves, but it was another time and the culture was different. The women respected the comfort of boundaries while offering each other unwavering friendship. Maybe we need to go back to some of those old ways. (As I reread these words I think this book would be a lively discussion for a book club.) Finally, The Wednesday Sisters reminded me so viscerally of what we women went through in the sixties. I would have been younger than this quintet by ten years, but I still remember so much of that era, and frankly, for all the wishing and hoping of forgetful Baby Boomers, there was a lot about that time that stunk! Women were treated like darling imbeciles, discouraged from pursuing professions or higher education, walled off from participating in sports, and chopped and hacked in surgical procedures of which they were completely ignorant until they woke up (if they were that lucky) and maybe found a breast missing and a lifetime of lymphedema ahead of them. Can you tell this book struck a chord? Yes, it did. I loved it, and I recommend it.

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