Summary and book reviews of Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Mrs. Everything

by Jennifer Weiner

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner X
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
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  • Published:
    Jun 2019, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
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About this Book

Book Summary

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?

1950
Jo

The four Kaufmans stood at the curb in front of the new house on Alhambra Street, as if they were afraid to set foot on the lawn, even though Jo knew they could. The lawn belonged to them now, along with the house, with its red bricks and the white aluminum awning. Every part of it, the front door and the steps, the mailbox at the curb, the cherry tree in the backyard and the maple tree by the driveway, the carport and the basement and the attic you could reach by a flight of stairs that you pulled down from the ceiling, all of it belonged to the Kaufmans. They were moving out of the bad part of Detroit, which Jo's parents said was crowded and unhealthy, full of bad germs and diseases and filling up with people who weren't like them; they were moving up in the world, to this new neighborhood, to a house that would be all their own.

"Oh, Ken," said Jo's mother, as she squeezed his arm with her gloved hand. Her mother's name was Sarah, and she was just over five feet tall, with ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Jo and Bethie are very different people. But in what ways do you find them similar? Do their similarities outweigh their differences? How do their similarities cause problems in their relationship?
  2. Forgiveness, of others and of the characters' own selves, is an important theme in the novel. Discuss how the characters work through their conflicts and how they do or do not resolve the issues.
  3. Compare and contrast how Jo and Bethie are influenced by their mother. Is there a defining element of their relationship with their mother? How does it weave its way into the sisters' lives?
  4. Mrs. Everything spans half of the twentieth century and the early part of the twenty-first. What period details make you feel immersed in each decade? Were ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Book groups: gather those vintage gelatin dessert recipes and hunker down for astonishing discussions. This novel holds power to crack through decades of silence, family secrets, and hidden aspects of self.   (Reviewed by Karen Lewis).

Full Review Members Only (727 words).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
An ambitious look at how women's roles have changed - and stayed the same - over the last 70 years.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Her expert handling of difficult subjects - abortion, rape, and racism among them - will force readers to examine their own beliefs and consider unexpected nuances. Weiner tugs every heartstring with this vivid tale.

Booklist (starred review)
Readers will flock to this ambitious, nearly flawless novel.

Author Blurb Jill Grunenwald, author of Running with a Police Escort
Mrs. Everything is like Beaches but with mothers and daughters and sisters. I may never recover.

Reader Reviews

JHSiess

A sweeping exploration of womanhood in America
Bestselling author Jennifer Weiner says she has been thinking about the story of Mrs. Everything "for a really long time." She always knew that she wanted to pen a historical novel with "a lot of sweep and a lot of heft that would ...   Read More

Betty Taylor

Realistic Family Saga
Jennifer Weiner is known for her stories of sibling relationships. With her newest book MRS. EVERYTHING she brings us siblings Jo and Bethie Kaufman. However, where this book differs from all her others is the time span of the story. She gives us ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Time-Saving Appliances

fridge Jennifer Weiner's novel Mrs. Everything confronts the notion that a woman can do and be everything to everyone. From the 1950s through the early 2000s, women in America became liberated from many household chores due to time-saving inventions. Refrigerators, dishwashers, laundry appliances, even automatic coffee makers, all helped lighten the load of housework.

The invention of the electric refrigerator-freezer revolutionized lives, and the entire food industry. Designers tinkered with various technologies as early as the 1700s, but a self-contained household fridge wasn't manufactured until the early 1900s when companies such as Kelvinator, Electrolux, and Frigidaire patented and developed them. By the 1940s, most families in America ...

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