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?
My Thoughts: Mrs. Everything launches the reader into the present moments in the life of Jo, and then swings back to growing-up years in Detroit, in the 1950s. We alternate between Jo and Bethie’s stories, from their sisterhood, their relationship with their mother Sarah, and their college years. The era resonated with me, since I also came of age during those times. The story is layered with the civil rights movements, the Vietnam War, the feminist and consciousness-raising groups…and how time and personal experiences changed each of the women as they moved beyond their early years.
I found myself relating to each of them in various ways, and I looked forward to each time I picked up the book to continue the family saga. A memorable story that earned five stars for me.
***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.