The Wednesday Sisters
by Meg Waite Clayton

Ballantine Books, 2008. ISBN 978-0-345-50282-7.
Reviewed by Susan Ideus
Posted on 07/07/2008

Fiction: Chick Lit; Fiction: Mainstream

The Wednesday Sisters is the compelling story of friendship between five women who first meet in a 1960s Palo Alto park as their children play. Clayton has developed strong characters in Kath the spoiled doctor's wife, Linda the athlete, Frankie from Chicago, scientist Brett, and secretive Ally. Four are college graduates; one is not. A fierce, enduring bond develops between these five very different women as they discover mutual loves—great literature, expressing themselves in writing, and the Miss America Pageant. Every Wednesday, they bring paper and pen to the picnic table in the park. They discuss their latest reads and then write and share their poems and stories, at first timidly, and then more boldly as their talent, confidence, and level of trust develop. When they begin to type their stories and articles, they make four carbons, so each member can read and critique before the next week's discussion.

As the years pass, the women become more proficient writers and venture into the daunting world of submitting their work for publication. They share leads and keep a joint file of possible agents. They share successes and disappointments. One becomes an editor. One succeeds beyond anyone's dream, landing herself a spot on Johnny Carson's late night show.

Their friendship matures along with their talent. Secrets are revealed and honored. They stand with one another through triumphs and tragedies—births, broken marriages, life-changing illness. Every year, the women gather to watch the Miss America Pageant. It becomes a metaphor of their own development, from youthful dreams and ambitions to a more informed, moderate feminism. They are witnesses to a changing world—the Vietnam conflict, man walking on the moon, and the women's movement. The author is faithful to the details of the changing decades of the 60s and 70s. The women transition from one stage of life to another, from one decade to another, sometimes grudgingly (as they switch from typewriters to computers, for instance) and sometimes with ease. The same determination that keeps them writing sustains them all, no matter what life brings. This is no fairy tale in which life is perfect and everyone is instantly successful.

Clayton develops strong individual characters and tells a powerful story that celebrates friendship, trust, and life. She shows the healing power of telling one's story and the importance of having a group of trusted sisters with whom to share those stories.

Meg Waite Clayton is a graduate of the University Law School. She was a finalist for the Bellwether Prize and a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers' Convention. An acccomplished author, she didn't write seriously until age thirty-two. She notes, "Although my fiction is not closely autobiographical, I do draw heavily from my own emotions and experiences as I write." Clayton lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband and their two sons. For more information about the author, and to read her writing tips, visit her website.

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