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  • Writer's pictureEmily McTavish

Fall Read: The Female Persuasion

This recommendation was a no-brainer for me. I’ve not been able to stop talking to people about it or even just thinking about it. The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer (who also wrote The Interestings and others) has me fired up and motivated. It was well timed read, too, since I finished it right before the start of my second, and final, year of my master’s program.

The Female Persuasion came out this spring, and I knew I had to read it partly because of Wolitzer’s interview with Sam Sanders on the NPR Podcast It’s Been A Minute (also highly recommend). I had listened to The Interestings by Wolitzer in audiobook format, and it had been recommended to me by other friends. However, I connected with The Female Persuasion more because the main character, although a few years older than me based on when the book was set, was someone more relatable than the characters from The Interestings. Greer, the main character, was not always likable though, even if she was relatable.

Greer reluctantly goes to a small, New England college and is full of resentment. Her high school boyfriend goes off to Princeton, and her parents messed up her financial aid forms making it impossible for her to attend one of the higher level schools. By a stroke of luck, she does make friends and also winds up meeting the famous second-wave feminist, Faith Frank. Greer becomes swept up in feminism and equality in a way she never had experienced before, but credit should be due to her friend, Zee, a more natural activist. After college, Greer has another stroke of luck in being able to work for Faith Frank and her new foundation. Everything seems perfect and ideal--having an entry-level job at a feminist start-up, living in Brooklyn and still maintaining a long-distance relationship. It’s all very charmed. Until it isn’t, and that’s where I am going to leave it.

I liked how I didn’t like Greer all the time, and she definitely was flawed. It was like many friendships or watching television. As the reader you want to shake the characters because you already know something they haven't found out yet. The other characters were also flawed, and they take turns narrating certain sections of time as the book moved along. You want Cory, Greer’s boyfriend, to maybe try harder in his career and after some major setbacks. I also found Faith Frank was extremely frustrating. I imagined her looking and sounding like Barbara Corcoran from ABC’s Shark Tank--fierce, impressive and knowing. You learn Faith has had her own setbacks and struggles, but as the reader, you see how it is unwise for Greer to put so much stock in this mentorship or what appears to be a mentoring relationship. I’ve read more books in the past few years with completely unlikeable characters, but the characters in The Female Persuasion are likable. You may not like them all the time. The characters show complexity and variety. You won’t be bored reading Wolitzer’s book.

The idea of women needing to find mentors has been emphasized greatly in my college experience and now in my career. The idea of women helping women, or not, is greatly explored in this book and definitely reflects the political climate we are currently in. Now that we are in midterm election season, I am seeing all these political ads and news stories about more women running for office. I’m definitely in the camp where I don’t care what side of the political spectrum these candidates are running on, but it is inspiring to see other women have agency and are putting themselves up for positions of power. And of course it's uninspiring to see women campaigning and putting other women down.

In other readings about reading, I found this article about the books in your home library collection you haven't read yet or only partially read. I am buying fewer books, but I still have plenty at home that I have not read yet. I feel guilty when I checkout these newer books, like The Female Persuasion, instead of purchasing them. The library just makes it so easy to put your name on the waitlist for books that haven't even come out yet.

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