Monday, July 6, 2020

The Female Persuasion: A Novel by Meg Wolitzer

I'm not really sure what this book is about.Initially, the impression was it would be a feminist journey of a shy, slightly withdrawn girl coming into her own while surrounded by inspirational women. It's kind of that, but then also not. The trajectory Greer -- our lead -- starts on really becomes where she ends up. The "major" event that might have sent her on a tangent really just helps her get to where you expect her to be all along. It's strange. She does learn how to speak up and speak out, but it's not cliche in that she's suddenly empowered. Also, I think she would have gotten to where she ended up regardless of what happened in the story.

The book revolves around six characters, three men and three women. The women have a much more dominant role in the book, but the men are present in one way or another. The females have a common thread of purpose, the males are a bit more listless,. Even the most successful man, Emmett, has a significant inability to listen. Cory, Greer's boyfriend, suffers a great family tragedy and withdraws from the world. His own grief becomes the central need he must attend to, leaving Greer out in the cold. The third guy, Darren simply serves as a catalyst to get Greer angry about how men get away with improper behavior. The guys get to tell a little of their stories, but only one is really "good." They're all flawed at varying degrees.

The women include Greer, her friend Zee, and Faith. Zee encourages Greer to think and act like an activist. Faith, much older than the other two, has already created a successful career around speaking out for women. She gives Greer her first job out of college, working for a foundation that puts on events and does special projects to aid those in need. The foundation is funded by Emmett's company. Emmett is in love with Faith. He's doing this to be close to her. Allowing the men to also exhibit the stereotypical gender roles often found in literature is a subtle piece to this book. It's not a full role reversal though. 

I didn't love this book, but the more I think about it, the more I appreciate how the author decided to flaw her characters. It's not a hyper-realized version of men and women, it's not a declaration of one being better than the other. It's the mediocre reality that we all mess up to varying degrees. Sometimes we overcome those mess ups, sometimes we hide them and hope they stay hidden, and sometimes we never acknowledge we did wrong. It's telling who people are by how they handle their flaws, regardless of whether they're a man or woman. I like that the author is willing to admit that sometimes your flaws tarnish all the good you're putting out into the world.

I picked up this book because The Interestings is a favorite of mine. This isn't as good. It's not bad though. Maybe you'd like it.

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