Mia, Laney, Betts and Ginger met during their first year of law school, back at a time when women were just breaking into some otherwise all-male dominions. Nearly a century before, the Supreme Court had denied women the right to practice law in Bradwell v. Illinois, a case that earned these classmates their nicknames. They intend to push even further into positions filled mostly by men.
Just as Betts is about to realize her dream of becoming a Supreme Court Justice --- with her friends at the confirmation hearing to cheer her on --- the one question they dreaded might surface does, cloaking the room in an uncomfortable silence. It's a question that involves all four of the women and dredges up a secret they have kept for three decades. Anyone knows that the slightest hint of scandal is fodder to grab onto for old-boy politicians reluctant to share their exclusive club --- especially with females. And this secret is loaded with potential scandal. It threatens to derail Bett's judiciary hopes, swamp Laney's campaign for Senator, smear Ginger's reputation, and cast doubt on Mia's trustworthiness.
All these friends can think to do is scratch their previous plans and flee to Ginger's family vacation home on Cook Island. The press won't have an easy time following them there. A journalist herself, Mia knows all about the tenacity of the media and warns her friends that they'll eventually have to face the reporters. In the meantime, though, the peace and solitude of the island will give the ladies a chance to reflect on the events of that spring break back in 1979.
These are women who have lived their lives with a sort of cautious abandon. They're no saints, but they certainly didn't deserve what happened to them that long-ago weekend. How might their lives have been different had they not faced that dreadful day? Is their friendship stronger for it, or has it pounded a wedge between them?
With this newest predicament, the four Ms. Bradwells learn how tough they really are. As they do, they also see how difficult it was for their mothers to witness their pain. They realize how very much they want to protect their own daughters and how little they can do to keep them truly safe. It has been a hard lesson, but a lesson that molded them into the incredible women they are today.
Mia, Laney, Betts and Ginger will become icons of courage and symbols of enduring friendship. Despite the miles between them, they have always relied and depended on each other. Theirs is a relationship that goes beyond the ties of love. Without all four of them working together, none of them would ever truly succeed.
Think of what it means to say, "Let me do this for you, this one small thing." Then think of the rare person you care enough to say that to. Who would you bare your soul for? Who would you give up your dreams to protect? These women find the answers to these questions, and more.
THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS marks the return of Meg Waite Clayton, author of the national bestseller THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS and THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT, a finalist for the Bellwether Prize. Her latest novel --- sure to be another success --- is a wonderful look at the complexities of friendship, the bonds between mothers and daughters, and the intricate interrelationships women form.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on April 4, 2011
The Four Ms. Bradwells