Trigger warning: Rape
Wow. So this was good. I think that some parts were a bit too long, but I can’t really complain about that when I think that Weiner did such a great job with character development along and weaving all of the plot elements together. Weiner also includes certain pop culture and historical incidents (the Kennedy assassination, student protests, war in Vietnam, the me too movement, and even Hillary Clinton running for President of the United States) that are not front and center to the story, but still intriguing to read about with these characters. I of course ended up liking one character more than the other (can’t help it, this is the way it goes with dual POVs) but I still really enjoyed the other character too. I just wanted this story to go on for much longer after I got to the end which is a mark of a great book to me.
In “Mrs. Everything” the book starts off in the 2000s with a woman named Jo getting news and wondering how to break it to her family. From there we jump backwards to Jo as a young girl and wondering why her family moved from where they lived to another neighborhood in Michigan. We quickly find out that Jo tries very hard to be good for her mother, but always seems to get things wrong. She loves her father and with him she feels as if it’s okay if she’s not the perfect little girl that her mother wants. Weiner then shows us Bethie (younger sister of Jo) who loves her mother and is very much a great helper to her mother and grandmother. She loves all of the things her sister seems to hate. She does love her sister though and especially the stories that she tells her. Weiner juggles both POVs throughout the book and we follow Jo and Bethie from the 1950s to 2022.
I really liked Jo’s storyline the best I think. We have a young girl realizing that she’s not like other girls and struggling with that. When we have Jo realizing that her not being like others can mean that her family and life will be harder, we get to see her struggle with making choices that I don’t know if I could have been able to do. Jo also is noticing the racial issues that are propping up in the country and how it’s not fair that girls she plays sports with in high school can’t even sit with her at lunch. Jo has a need to do what’s right, but we see her start to lose herself again and again after she deals with romantic disappointments.
Bethie had a more uneven story-line to me though it still works in the end. We get to see what incident in her youth ends up shaping her future. And we get to see her initial dreams change from when she was young (she was a great actor and singer) to her her floundering a lot when she’s an adult with her chasing the overwhelming need to be safe.
The secondary characters in this book shine too. We have Jo and Bethie’s parents, Jo and Bethie’s love interests, friends, and family. I don’t want to spoil too much here, but I thought it was great to see the two women go from being close, to slightly estranged, and back again. We get to see the ups and downs of their relationship and how much they love each other.
The book takes place in Detroit, Michigan mostly with some of the story moving to New York and Atlanta. The first parts of the story shows both characters dealing with growing up in Detroit and then later on attending the University of Michigan. From there though we have them moving around and landing on the east coast/south. I think a setting of a book is just as important as the characters and thought that Weiner did a great job of setting the mood so to speak with location changes and providing enough details to make you feel as if you are there too.
The ending I thought was very bittersweet. We get to see another family go on and know that through ups and downs they will be there for each other.