Book Review: Mrs. Everything

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

From Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Do You Love and In Her Shoes, comes a smart, thoughtful, and timely exploration of 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. Mrs. Everything is an ambitious, richly textured journey through history—and herstory—as these two sisters navigate a changing America over the course of their lives.

Do we change or does the world change us?

Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise.

Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where 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?

In her most ambitious novel yet, Jennifer Weiner tells a story of two sisters who, with their different dreams and different paths, offer answers to the question: How should a woman be in the world?

Wow, this is quite a book. It is hard to know where to begin! This is the story of 2 sisters, Jo and Bethie, spanning from their childhood until their old age. I enjoyed reading about these sisters and getting to know them. I didn’t always like them or their choices, but that was OK — I could definitely feel their ups and downs, successes and failures, joys and sorrows and was invested the whole time.
This book was really well written and spanned a huge, tumultuous time in history, exploring women’s roles and civil rights. This book deals with so many issues that women can relate to, hence the title, Mrs. Everything. There’s class and race, lesbianism, interracial marriage, women’s choices, abuse, motherhood, sisterhood, daughterhood, expectations, women’s roles in the paid working world, women’s roles at home, happiness and contentment, …
Weiner shows herself to be a wonderful storyteller as I was engaged the whole time. Parts of the book were necessarily heavy, but still very readable. This is a book that certainly got me thinking and questioning and is timely with the #metoo movement. Going back through the history of these women really shows us the underlying tensions of what women are fighting for, how far we’ve come, and how much there is to lose.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
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