Excerpt from The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Female Persuasion

A Novel

by Meg Wolitzer

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer X
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2018, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2019, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Meara Conner
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An Excerpt from The Female Persuasion

Greer Kadetsky met Faith Frank in October of 2006 at Ryland College, where Faith had come to deliver the Edmund and Wilhelmina Ryland Memorial Lecture; and though that night the chapel was full of students, some of them boiling over with loudmouthed commentary, it seemed astonishing but true that out of everyone there, Greer was the one to interest Faith. Greer, a freshman then at this undistinguished school in southern Connecticut, was selectively and furiously shy. She could give answers easily, but rarely opinions. "Which makes no sense, because I am stuffed with opinions. I am a piñata of opinions," she'd said to Cory during one of their nightly Skype sessions since college had separated them. She'd always been a tireless student and a constant reader, but she found it impossible to speak in the wild and free ways that other people did. For most of her life it hadn't mattered, but now it did.

So what was it about her that Faith Frank recognized and liked? Maybe, Greer thought, it was the possibility of boldness, lightly suggested in the streak of electric blue that zagged across one side of her otherwise ordinary furniture brown hair. But plenty of college girls had hair partially dipped the colors of frozen and spun treats found at county fairs. Maybe it was just that Faith, at sixty three a person of influence and a certain level of fame who had been traveling the country for decades speaking ardently about women's lives, felt sorry for eighteen year old Greer, who was hot faced and inarticulate that night. Or maybe Faith was automatically generous and attentive around young people who were uncomfortable in the world.

Greer didn't really know why Faith took an interest. But what she knew for sure, eventually, was that meeting Faith Frank was the thrilling beginning of everything. It would be a very long time before the unspeakable end.

She had been at college for seven weeks before Faith appeared. Much of that time, that excruciating buildup, had been spent absorbed in her own unhappiness, practically curating it. On Greer's first Friday night at Ryland, from along the dormitory halls came the grinding sounds of a collective social life forming. It soon became an ambient roar, as if there were a generator somewhere deep in the building. The class of 2010 was starting college in a time of supposed coed assertiveness—a time of female soccer stars and condoms zipped confidently inside the pocket of a purse, the ring shape pressing itself into the wrapper like a gravestone rubbing. As everyone on the third floor of Woolley Hall got ready to go out, Greer, who had planned on going nowhere, but instead staying in and doing the Kafka reading for her freshman literature colloquium, watched. She watched the girls standing with heads tilted and elbows jutted, pushing in earrings, and the boys aerosolizing themselves with a body spray called Stadium, which seemed to be half pine sap, half A.1. sauce. Then, overstimulated, they all fled the dorm and spread out across campus, heading toward various darkish parties that vibrated with identically shattering bass.

Woolley was old and decrepit, one of the original buildings, and the walls of Greer's room, as she'd described them to Cory the day she arrived, were "the disturbing color of hearing aids." The only people who remained there after the exodus that night were an assortment of lost, unclaimed souls. There was a boy from Iran who appeared very sad, his eyelashes clustered together in little wet starbursts. He sat in a chair in a corner of the first floor lounge with his computer on his lap, gazing at it mournfully. When Greer entered the lounge—her room, a rare single, was too depressing to stay in all evening, and she'd been unable to concentrate on her book—she was startled to realize that he was merely looking at his screen saver, which was a picture of his parents and sister, all of them smiling at him from far away. The family image swept across the computer screen and gently bounced against one side, before slowly heading back.

Excerpted from The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer. Copyright © 2018 by Meg Wolitzer. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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