I think I’m happy that I discovered Meg Wolitzer just recently, because I’m hoping that I’ll enjoy all of her books as much as I liked The Female Persuasion, and I have so many of them ahead of me, unread! I heard a lot of good buzz about her book The Interestings when that came out, but for some reason never picked it up. So, now maybe I will. After I plow through the other million books I have…

 

I really liked this book. I typically mark a few passages so I can blog about specific parts of a book I liked, but about 100 pages in I had to slow down my passage marking because it was getting out of hand. This novel tells the story of Greer, a college freshman who meets Faith Frank (a sort of Gloria Steinem figure) at her college after being sexually assaulted (I considered written “sort of” sexually assaulted, but I’m just going to say that what happens to Greer isn’t rape, I think in this #MeToo era I’m not going to pretend someone touching you sexually when you’re not interested or consenting isn’t “real” sexual assault). The novel goes on to focus on Greer’s post college years, also flashing back to her childhood/teen years. Her long-term boyfriend, college best friend, and Faith Frank all also get some sections of the book told from their perspectives.

I identified tremendously with Greer, although I enjoyed getting in the other character’s heads and was glad to see all of them get some closure/growth/whatever to their story-arcs. Greer and I both worked emergency hotlines, we both love marking passages in books “things that stir me” as she says. Greer’s love of reading sounds like my childhood:

At night she stayed up in bed reading by a flashlight, its beam quickly dwindling. But even as the light bailed, Greer read until the very last minute, consuming a yellow circle of stories and concepts that comforted and compelled her in her aloneness which went on year after year.

And, weirdly I met Gloria Steinem in college, although sadly I did not end up working with her and being mentored by her. I guess there’s still time… The book, like The Ten Year Nap, did depress me a bit at times because Greer ends up at 31 in a place that I am not. (Although I feel like the timeline is a bit rushed, I think Wolitzer didn’t want to write too much into the future, but I would have found Greer’s ending a bit more believable if it took her a few more years).

Additionally, Wolitzer just keeps hating on the lawyers (not that I blame her per se… we aren’t a happy bunch), Greer’s college friend Zee really doesn’t want to be in the legal world:

I know how much I don’t want to be a paralegal – it doesn’t excite me – and I know how much I don’t want to be a lawyer, at least not the corporate kind. I see these young associates, the ones who work really late and do corporate law, and they’re on call like doctors, except their work isn’t in the service of humanity, unless it’s the pro bono stuff they’re allowed to do once in a while. I mean, they’re like the opposite of Doctors Without Borders. Lawyers Without Souls, I think of them. … [I]t all takes too much away from you, and doesn’t give you fortification. Or a good feeling. Or a sense that you’re actually doing something decent during your two seconds on earth.

So… I guess reading Wolitzer is how I’m going to remind myself not to go back to being a lawyer in private practice?

Of course, SPOILER ALERT, someone dies in this book. Someone dies in a lot of books; you never notice until you’re looking always for someone to put into words how you’re feeling. This is Greer’s long-term boyfriend Cory’s story arc — he’s a hot shot Princeton grad, off to make bank as a consultant and hoping to do some programming work of his own someday, but instead someone in his life dies and he ends up stuck at home, picking up the pieces and taking care of everyone. So, I guess I identified with him too:

How was it, Cory kept thinking, that when a person died they were no longer anywhere? You could search the entire world and never find them. It was one thing for a body to stop working and be carted away under a sheet; it was another thing for the sense of that person to evaporate.  The textural and indisputable sense, as strong but as hard to pinpoint as a gas.

It is impossible to explain to anyone who doesn’t feel this way how, I was with my Mom when she died, I sat with her after she died, I sobbed as they took her away. And I still feel like – But how can she be gone? But I think anyone who has lost someone recently knows this feeling exactly, like your lost person might just turn up. Can’t really be gone. Does not compute. I’ve come to feel that this is some sort of human brain failsafe; the loss is too much and so you just can’t believe it even though you know it’s true.

Finally, before this gets too long, I’ll say that Wolitzer’s style reminds me a bit of Celeste Ng — sometimes the characters get together and say things to each other in a way that I don’t think real people always do. Real people don’t always have those heart to heart moments where they try to understand, really understand this person they love. Greer and her Mom do come to understand each other more:

Greer – “Why didn’t you and Dad ever find something that you really wanted to do? Something you could throw yourselves into?

Laurel got quiet, her mouth a little wavy. “Some people never do. I don’t really know why… We never had an easy time. We both had a way of retreating. Though we did do some things. And we did have you. That’s not nothing.”

If you’ve enjoyed other books that I’ve enjoyed, I think you will like this book.

Currently reading: No Time to Spare and I Am I Am I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death (jeeze, she is NOT going to be able to get life insurance, she obviously partakes of many risky activities…) Also on deck – An American Marriage and You Think It I’ll Say It. Stay tuned.