Title: The Four Ms. Bradwells
Author: Meg Waite Clayton
Publisher: Ballantine (Random House)
Pub. Date: March 22, 2011
I really had no idea what I was getting into when I started this book about four friends who meet in law school. It's not that I necessarily expected anything frilly, but I didn't realize the profundity it would have or the thought it would inspire.
The book starts out when the four friends, in their fifties, are at the senate confirmation hearing for Betts, who has been nominated for the supreme court. All is going well and her appointment to the bench is expected when a senator throws out one last question. He asks her about a potential scandal from her past that, in itself, has the ability to change the trajectory of her career and that of her friends'. After spitting out a prepared answer, Betts and her friends hop in the car and, with a change of their original plans which included dinner and a Broadway musical in Manhattan, head off to Ginger's secluded summer home on Cook Island to escape the tenacious press. As the women hole up in the home over the weekend, they are confronted with the truths of their past, their secrets, some of which the've all shared and others that they've kept to themselves. And in the meantime, the readers are presented with the complexities inevitable in female friendships.
This book was almost equally about 1) the dynamics of the friendship, 2) about the scandal that's first alluded to in the senate confirmation hearing, and 3) about what it means to be a woman in today's society and workforce. The chapters alternate among the four women: Betts, Ginger, Laney, and Mia. Some people find this type of narration confusing, but I found it valuable, especially based on the feministic content of the book, to hear each of these characters on that more personal level. The scandal was what incited the main plot but otherwise remained somewhat of a background to the story. As the women spend the weekend at the home thinking back on the past, the narration looks back in the character's lives through the years starting from how they met and then focusing largely on the one weekend that will come to haunt them so many years later.
Another focus of this book was the discussion about women and double standards. There was discussion about the hypocrisy of society, about women in the workforce, female victims of violence, etc. The four Ms. Bradwells (as the four women are referred to) met in law school in 1979 when women were still often demeaned or looked down upon. Each of the women in the book was portrayed, despite their individual faults, as strong, independent women. There were great points made that would make this book great for book clubs. By the time I finished it I felt a sort of renewed and increased desire to achieve some of the goals I've laid out for myself and assert my independence as a woman.
There was also a lot to think about in terms of friendships. There were many times throughout when I wondered to myself how these women stayed friends throughout the years. It's pretty admirable, I think, to overcome the fights and the bad feelings that are bound to happen and to maintain that closeness they had in college. It may be that I can't relate because I don't feel I have those close bonds with anyone, but that could also be because I wouldn't put up with a lot of what these women dealt each other. So the concept of their friendship was an interesting one for me.
The Four Ms. Bradwells packed a punch that I truly wasn't expecting. Some readers may be turned away by the heaviness in the plot or the lack of fast pace. But I felt the author did a great job of pacing everything to provide the back story, allowing us to get to know these women, revealing bits of the scandal here and there, and realistically fitting this all into less than a week in the Ms. Bradwells' lives.
Definitely a read that made me feel Girl Power! ;)
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Also, I have a copy of this book to give away!! The books will go out sometime in May when this tour is over. This giveaway is limited to the U.S./Canada. To enter, please leave your name and e-mail in the comments. I'll choose the winner in approximately 2 weeks!
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