Cover image for Mrs. Everything
Title:
Mrs. Everything

A Novel
Author:
Weiner, Jennifer
Subject:
Fiction
Literature
Description:
An instant New York Times bestseller "A multigenerational narrative that's nothing short of brilliant." —People "Simply unputdownable." —Good Housekeeping "The perfect book club pick." —SheReads Named a Best Book of Summer by Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Woman's Day, PopSugar, HelloGiggles, and Refinery29 From Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Do You Love and In Her Shoes comes 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. 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?
Publisher:
Atria Books
Date:
2019/06/11
Digital Format:
Adobe EPUB

HTML

Kindle
Language:
English

Summary

Summary

An instant New York Times bestseller

"A multigenerational narrative that's nothing short of brilliant." -- People
"Simply unputdownable." -- Good Housekeeping
"The perfect book club pick." -- SheReads

Named a Best Book of Summer by Entertainment Weekly , Cosmopolitan , Woman's Day , PopSugar , HelloGiggles , and Refinery29

From Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Do You Love and In Her Shoes comes 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.

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?


Author Notes

Jennifer Weiner grew up in Simsbury, Connecticut. She attended Princeton University, where she studied with John McPhee, Toni Morrison and Joyce Carol Oates. She is currently a reporter/columnist at the "Philadelphia Inquirer" and a contributing editor at "Mademoiselle". Her short stories have been published in "Seventeen" and "Redbook". Her freelance work appears in Salon.com, "Time Out New York", "Animal Fair", the "Columbia Journalism Review" and "Seventeen". She lives in Philadelphia and appears regularly on "Philly after Midnight," Philadelphia's local late-night television show, as a commentator.

(Publisher Provided) Jennifer Weiner was born on an army base in DeRidder, Louisiana on March 28, 1970. She received a B.A. in English literature from Princeton University in 1991. In 1990, she won Princeton's Academy of American Poets prize. After graduating, she took a six-week program at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida and began her career as a journalist. She has been published in Seventeen, Salon, Redbook, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, and Elle.

Her first novel, Good in Bed, was published in 2001. Her other novels include Little Earthquakes, Goodnight Nobody, The Guy Not Taken, Certain Girls, Best Friends Forever, Fly Away Home, Then Came You, The Next Best Thing, All Fall Down, and Who Do You Love. In Her Shoes was made into a movie starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, and Shirley MacLaine.

Jennifer's title, The Littlest Bigfoot, made the New York Times bestseller list in 2016. Weiner's memoir Hungry Heart appeared on the New York Times bestseller list in 2016.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Bestseller Weiner brilliantly crafts this heartwrenching multigenerational tale of love, loss, and family, which is partly inspired by Little Women. As sisters Jo and Bethie Kaufman move into a new home in Detroit in 1951, they are excited by all of the possibilities it offers-then their beloved father dies. Bethie, the "perfect" child, is repeatedly molested by her father's younger brother, which drives her into an eating disorder and later into drug use. Jo, a daddy's girl who epically clashes with her mother, realizes early on that she prefers to date women, but after her girlfriend marries a man, Jo likewise finds a husband and bears three daughters. Eventually, both sisters follow their hearts, even when it's tremendously difficult. Weiner's talent for characterization, tight pacing, and detail will thrill her fans and easily draw new ones into her orbit. 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. Agent: Joanna Pulcini, Joanna Pulcini Literary. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

Jo and Bethie Kaufman are as different as sisters can be. Jo is an athletic tomboy who can never be quite good enough for her mother. Bethie is adorable and perfect. As the story progresses from their childhood in a Detroit neighborhood in the 1950s to wild college days in the '60s, their roles reverse and evolve into something more complicated. Heartbroken Jo marries a likable enough man because she can't imagine a happy future with a woman. Bethie deals with trauma via drugs and grift until she lands at a commune in Georgia. In chronicling seven decades of the Jewish sisters' lives, Weiner (Who Do You Love, 2015) asks big questions about how society treats women in this slyly funny, absolutely engrossing novel that is simultaneously epic and intimate. Jo and Bethie's relationship eschews cliché in favor of the more mundane and more powerful reality that closeness ebbs and flows, and sometimes each sister is on her own to figure it out. Mrs. Everything will find equally eager readers in the beach bag and the book club.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: It's been a while since Weiner explored the complicated terrain of sisterhood, and readers will flock to this ambitious, nearly flawless novel.--Susan Maguire Copyright 2019 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

PATSY, by Nicole Dennis-Benn. (Liveright, $26.95.) The title character of Dennis-Benn's second novel leaves her young daughter behind in Jamaica when she comes to America as an undocumented immigrant to reconnect with a female lover. The book avoids cliché, finding ample pleasure with the pain and sacrifice. A GOOD AMERICAN FAMILY: The Red Scare and My Father, by David Maraniss. (Simon & Schuster, $28.) With poignant honesty, Maraniss, a skilled biographer and historian, scrutinizes the life of his father, a communist sympathizer who was subpoenaed before the House Un-American Activities Committee, harassed by the F.B.I. and blacklisted in his career as a newspaperman. THE MAKING OF A JUSTICE: Reflections on My First 94 Years, by John Paul Stevens. (Little, Brown, $35.) The 99-year-old Stevens looks back on his 35 years as a justice on the Supreme Court, reflecting on cases in which he played a key role and also on larger themes like the shape of American democracy. CLYDE FANS: A Picture Novel, by Seth. (Drawn & Quarterly, $54.95.) Twenty years in the making, this substantial graphic novel tells a multi-generational story of a family-owned electrical fan business in Toronto - the ups and downs of livelihoods tied to sales and fathers and sons who grapple with changing times. MRS. EVERYTHING, by Jennifer Weiner. (Atria, $28.) Balancing her signature wit with a political voice that's new to her fiction, Weiner tells the story of the women's movement through the lives of two sisters raised in 1950s Detroit. The book holds up the prism of choice and lets light shine through from every angle. DEAF REPUBLIC: Poems, by Ilya Kaminsky. (Graywolf, paper, $16.) This extraordinary poetry collection is structured as a two-act play, in which an occupying army kills a deaf boy and villagers respond by marshaling a wall of silence as a source of resistance. "Our hearing doesn't weaken," one poem declares, "but something silent in us strengthens." THE LAND OF FLICKERING LIGHTS: Restoring America in an Age of Broken Politics, by Michael Bennet. (Atlantic Monthly, $27.) The Colorado senator and Democratic presidential candidate presents his views, based on personal experience, of the partisan stalemate in Washington and how to overcome it. RUNNING TO THE EDGE: A Band of Misfits and the Guru Who Unlocked the Secrets of Speed, by Matthew Futterman. (Doubleday, $28.95.) A deputy sports editor at The Times profiles the coach who helped make American distance runners a threat. THE THIRTY-YEAR GENOCIDE: Turkey's Destruction of Its Christian Minorities, 1894-1924, by Benny Morris and Dror Ze'evi. (Harvard, $35.) This study ventures beyond the well-known Armenian death marches to attacks on other minorities as well. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web: nytimes.com/books


Kirkus Review

A sprawling story about two sisters growing up, apart, and back together.Jo and Bethie Kaufman may be sisters, but they don't have much else in common. As young girls in the 1950s, Jo is a tomboy who's uninterested in clothes while Bethie is the "pretty one" who loves to dress up. When their father dies unexpectedly, the Kaufman daughters and their mother, Sarah, suddenly have to learn how to take care of themselves at a time when women have few options. Jo, who realizes early on that she's attracted to girls, knows that it will be difficult for her to ever truly be herself in a world that doesn't understand her. Meanwhile, Bethie struggles with her appearance, using food to handle her difficult emotions. The names Jo and Beth aren't all that Weiner (Hungry Heart, 2016, etc.) borrows from Little Women; she also uses a similar episodic structure to showcase important moments of the sisters' lives as she follows them from girlhood to old age. They experience the civil rights movement, protests, sexual assault, drugs, sex, and marriage, all while dealing with their own personal demons. Although men are present in both women's lives, female relationships take center stage. Jo and Bethie are defined not by their relationships with husbands or boyfriends, but by their complex and challenging relationships with their mother, daughters, friends, lovers, and, ultimately, each other. Weiner resists giving either sister an easy, tidy ending; their sorrows are the kind that many women, especially those of their generation, have had to face. The story ends as Hillary Clinton runs for president, a poignant reminder of both the strides women have made since the 1950s and the barriers that still hold them back.An ambitious look at how women's roles have changedand stayed the sameover the last 70 years. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

The latest novel by New York Times best-selling Weiner (Good in Bed) follows Jo and Bethie Kaufman, Jewish sisters growing up in Detroit during the civil rights era. Jo is lean, sporty, and a constant source of worry for her traditionalist mother, whereas Bethie is beautiful and the near-perfect daughter. After the untimely death of their father, the girls enter adolescence and begin grappling with their identities, sexuality, and strict societal expectations. Jo seeks solace in her best friend and eventual same-sex lover, while Bethie starts down a destructive path, aided by a sexually abusive uncle. College brings experimentation with drugs, sex, and the fight for equality. The sisters continually come together and then break apart as they navigate life's vagaries for 60 years, all while searching for peace within themselves. VERDICT Not as strong as some of Weiner's previous works, this title struggles with continuity through its expansive time line. Readers may have trouble keeping up with the gaps. Nonetheless, it's a fascinating read that emphasizes the moments that define who you are. [See Prepub Alert, 12/17/18.]-Chelsie Harris, San Diego Cty. Lib. © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Mrs. Everything 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 white skin that always looked a little suntanned, shiny brown hair that fell in curls to her shoulders, and a pursed, painted red mouth beneath a generous nose. Her round chin jutted forward, giving her a determined look, and there were grooves running from the corners of her nose to the edges of her lips, but that morning, her mouth was turned up at the corners, not scrunched up in a frown. She was happy, and as close to beautiful as Jo had ever seen. Jo wrapped her arms around her mother's waist, feeling the stiffness underneath the starch of Sarah's best red dress, the one with a full skirt flaring out from her narrow waist and three big white buttons on either side of the bodice. A smart red hat with a black ribbon band sat on top of Sarah's curls. Her mother put her arm around Jo's shoulders and squeezed, and Jo felt like someone had pulled a blanket up to her chin, or like she was swimming in Lake Erie, where they went in the summertime, and had just paddled into a patch of warm water. "So, girls? What do you think?" asked Jo's daddy. "It's like a castle!" said Bethie, her little sister. Bethie was five years old, chubby and cute, with pale white skin, naturally curly hair, and blue-green eyes, and she always said exactly the right thing. Jo was six, almost seven, tall and gangly, and almost everything she did was wrong. Jo smiled, dizzy with pleasure as her dad scooped her up in his arms. Ken Kaufman had thick dark hair that he wore combed straight back from his forehead. His nose, Jo thought, gave him a hawklike aspect. His eyes were blue underneath dark brows, and he smelled like the bay rum cologne he patted on his cheeks every morning after he shaved. He was only a few inches taller than his wife, but he was broad-shouldered and solid. Standing in front of the house he'd bought, he looked as tall as Superman from the comic books. He wore his good gray suit, a white shirt, a red tie to match Sarah's dress, and black shoes that Jo had helped him shine that morning, setting the shoes onto yesterday's Free Press, working the polish into the leather with a tortoiseshell-handled brush. Jo and Bethie wore matching pink gingham dresses that their mother had sewn, with puffy sleeves, and patent-leather Mary Janes. Bethie could hardly wait to try on the new dress. When Jo had asked to wear her dungarees, her mother had frowned. "Why would you want to wear pants? Today's a special day. Don't you want to look pretty?" Jo couldn't explain. She didn't have the words to say how she felt about pretty, how the lacy socks itched and the fancy shoes pinched and the elastic insides of the sleeves left red dents in her upper arms. When she was dressed up, Jo just felt wrong, like it was hard to breathe, like her skin no longer fit, like she'd been forced into a costume or a disguise, and her mother was always shushing her, even when she wasn't especially loud. She didn't care about looking pretty, and she didn't like dresses. Her mother, she knew, would never understand. "It's our house," Jo's mother was saying, her voice rich with satisfaction. "The American Dream," said Jo's dad. To Jo, the house didn't seem like much of a dream. It wasn't a castle with a moat, no matter what Bethie had said, or even a mansion, like the ones in Grosse Pointe that Jo had seen when the family had driven there for a picnic. It was just a regular house, square-shaped and boring red, with a triangle-shaped roof plopped on top, like the one in her "Dick and Jane" readers, on a street of houses that looked just the same. In their old neighborhood, they'd lived in an apartment. You could walk up the stairs and smell what everyone was cooking for dinner. The sidewalks had bustled with people, kids, and old men and women, people with light skin and dark skin. They'd sit on their stoops on warm summer nights, speaking English or Yiddish, or Polish or Italian. Here, the streets were quiet. The air just smelled like air, not food, the sidewalks were empty, and the people she'd seen so far all had white skin like they did. But maybe, in this new place, she could make a fresh start. Maybe here, she could be a good girl. Except now she had a problem. Her dad had borrowed a camera, a boxy, rectangular Kodak Duaflex with a stand and a timer. The plan was for them all to pose on the steps in front of the house for a picture, but Sarah had made her wear tights under their new dresses, and the tights had caused Jo's underpants to crawl up the crack of her tushie, where they'd gotten stuck. Jo knew if she pulled them out her mother would see, and she'd get angry. "Stop fidgeting!" she would hiss, or "A lady doesn't touch her private parts in public," except everything itched her so awfully that Jo didn't think she could stand it. Things like this never happened to Bethie. If Jo hadn't seen it herself, she wouldn't have believed that her sister even had a tushie crack. The way Bethie behaved, you'd expect her to be completely smooth down there, like one of the baby dolls Bethie loved. Jo had dolls, too, but she got bored with them once she'd chopped off their hair or twisted off their heads. Jo shifted her weight from side to side, hoping it would dislodge her underwear. It didn't. Her father pulled the keys out of his pocket, flipped them in the air, and caught them neatly in his hand. "Let's go, ladies!" His voice was loud and cheerful. Bethie and Sarah climbed the stairs and stood in front of the door. Sarah peered across the lawn, shadowing her eyes with her hand, frowning. "Come on, Jo!" Jo took one step, feeling her underwear ride up higher. Another step. Then another. When she couldn't stand it anymore, she reached behind her, grabbed a handful of pink gingham, hooked her thumb underneath the underpants' elastic, and yanked. All she'd meant to do was pull her panties back into place, but she tugged so vigorously that she tore the skirt away from its bodice. The sound of the ripping cloth was the loudest sound in the world. "Josette Kaufman!" Sarah's face was turning red. Her father look startled, and Bethie's face was horrified. "I'm sorry!" Jo felt her chest start getting tight. "What's the matter with you?" Sarah snapped. "Why can't you be good for once?" "Sarah." Ken's voice was quiet, but angry. "Oh, sure!" said Sarah, and tossed her head. "You always take up for her!" She stopped talking, which was good, except then she started crying, which was bad. Jo stood on the lawn, dress torn, tights askew, watching tears cut tracks through her mother's makeup, hearing her father's low, angry voice, wondering if there was something wrong with her, why things like this were always happening, why she couldn't be good, and why her mom couldn't have just let her wear pants, the way she'd wanted. Excerpted from Mrs. Everything: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.