Title: Mrs. Everything
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Read by: Ari Graynor & Beth Malone
Publisher: Simon & Shuster Audio
Length: Approximately 16 hours and 45 minutes
Source: Review Copy from Simon & Shuster Audio. Thank-you!
Mrs. Everything is an ambitious novel by one of my favorite authors, Jennifer Weiner, that tells the story of two sisters and the hurdles they faced growing up in the latter half of the twentieth century. Jo and Bethie are two very different sisters growing up in 1950’s Detroit Michigan. Jo is an athletic tom boy that constantly fails to meet her mother’s expectations, while Bethie is a perfect girly-girl who seems to have everything going for her. When a series of events changes their world, the girls find themselves on different paths finding their way through life. The novel follows their lives from the 1950s to present day. What challenges will they face and how will their relationship fair?
Mrs. Everything was an excellent family drama. I liked the complicated look at motherhood through the years. It was interesting that Jo had such problems with her own mother only to have her daughter have difficulties with her. The novel also looked at sexual violence and the effects it can have through the years. The book also showcased the difficulties that Jo faced as a lesbian woman unable to live the life that would fulfill her emotional needs. There were a lot of heavy topics in this novel, but good topics to discuss.
I liked that the names of the two main characters, Jo and Bethie – are names reminiscent of Little Women. I’m assuming that is on purpose as their personalities even fit. Jo is the boyish one who wants to be a writer. Beth is the more docile daughter that follows her mother’s wishes until a few tragic events change the course of her life.
This audiobook had two narrators to go with the alternating chapters and viewpoints, one for Bethie and one for Jo. It worked very well. Narrators act out the conversations that take place in the audiobook and I greatly enjoyed that. I don’t think myself too prudish, but the sex scenes in this book were very descriptive so be forewarned. I just find it really odd to listen to such scenes on audiobook. This book is set in the 1960’s and 1970’s so there is excessive drug use besides the very descriptive lesbian sex scenes. The sexual violent scenes were also hard for me to listen to. It was disturbing, but I think this would be a great book to discuss at a book club.
I loved the Detroit Michigan setting. I am from Southwest Michigan originally myself and didn’t actually spend any time as a youth in Detroit, but my ancestors are from there. In fact, my Great-Grandma was a model at Hudson’s, where Sarah works in the novel, in the 1920’s. I enjoyed shopping there are a teen and young adult until the store sadly closed. We just drove by the old store in Battle Creek when we were in Michigan visiting earlier this month and I was saddened to see how abandoned it looked. Having the constant Michigan references in the book just made me really happy listening to it.
Overall, Mrs. Everything is a great novel that explores what it is like being a woman growing up in the Baby Boomer generation. Women have had to face a lot of expectations and life doesn’t always go the way you have it planned. It was a good book to ponder and I think it would be an excellent book club book. This isn’t as light of a read as some of Weiner’s previous novels, but it was a great book to read as a woman. I enjoyed it and highly recommend it.