The Wednesday Sisters
“The Wednesday Sisters look like the kind of women who might meet at those fancy coffee shops on University --- we do look that way --- but we’re not one bit fancy, and we’re not sisters, either. We don’t even meet on Wednesdays anymore, although we did at the beginning.”
So begins Meg Waite Clayton’s lyrical novel of the friendships forged among five different women who come together by chance. In the tumultuous years of the late 1960s, many females were involved in protest marches opposing the war or fighting for the women’s movement. But in suburban Palo Alto, five ladies came together primarily because of their children. Being a mother is the first thing they had in common when they met at Pardee Park in those early days. Soon after, Frankie, Linda, Kath, Brett and Ally discovered that they all shared a love of books and a secret wish to write themselves. For Frankie --- a recent transplant from Chicago, with her husband and two kids --- to utter a desire out loud, even among friends, was terrifying: “It doesn’t seem like much now, I know, to admit ambition to your closest friends. I guess you’ll have to take my word for it: it was. It makes me a little sad when I look back on it, to think how very many women didn’t have Wednesday Sisters, to wonder who they might have become if they had.”
In admitting their passion for writing, the “Wednesday Sisters” begin to nourish lifelong bonds among themselves that transcend their literary goals. Linda, the frank, sometimes tactless one, lives with the fear that the disease that took her mother when she was young might do the same to her: “I grew up the child of a sick mother, and then the child of a dead mother. I couldn’t imagine going back to that. I couldn’t imagine putting my kids through that.” Kath is a spitfire Southern belle dealing with issues in her complicated marriage. Brett is the ladylike brain, always attired in white gloves that conceal a hidden tragedy from her past. Ally is demure and soft-spoken, crumbling under the weight of fertility issues, who desperately wants to write a children’s book to rival CHARLOTTE’S WEB.
When they first begin to meet on that playground, as their children play around them, each is taking a decisive step to move past her fears and express herself through writing. And in the words of Robin Morgan’s seminal anthology from that time, they prove that “Sisterhood is Powerful.” As they gain confidence in their writing and critiquing ability, they notice they are beginning to turn their keen eyes on the world that is changing all around them.
From the outset, they gather to watch the Miss America Pageant each year. At first, they enjoy it as frothy entertainment, but later they witness how the women’s movement has affected this annual event, even their own opinions of femininity and what it means to be female. Through their weekly meetings and unwavering support, each faces moments when she flourishes and, yes, sometimes flounders. And each is buoyed by the others’ strength and fortitude, through some of life’s most difficult obstacles. Their little writing group has blossomed into something more --- it has become the foundation of lifelong friendships.
Meg Waite Clayton’s stirring novel will appeal not just to those who secretly wish to be writers, but to anyone with a love of great books; anyone who has felt truly moved by a book or an author; and anyone who has had their dreams bolstered by good and faithful friends. It will speak volumes to fans of THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB and THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB. You’ll want to share THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS with anyone who believes in the power of a good book --- to inspire those close to us, and for those who inspire.
Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on January 24, 2011
The Wednesday Sisters
- Publication Date: June 17, 2008
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Ballantine Books
- ISBN-10: 0345502825
- ISBN-13: 9780345502827