After Meg Wolitzer’s 2013 novel The Interestings became one of my favorite books of last year (I was a little late to the game), I was eager to pick up her newest, The Female Persuasion, when it released last month. Inspiring and compulsively-readable, The Female Persuasion is truly a book for its time, showcasing life as a woman in the modern world and exploring the many facets of feminism that exist today.
“I sometimes think that the most effective people in the world are introverts who taught themselves to be extroverts.”
-Meg Wolitzer, The Female Persuasion
From the jacket:
Greer Kadetsky is a college freshman when she meets the woman who will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzingly persuassive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others. Hearing Faith speak for the first time, in a crowded campus chapel, Greer feels her inner world light up. She and Cory, her high school boyfriend, have both been hardworking and ambitious, jokingly referred to as “twin rocket ships,” headed up and up and up. Yet for so long Greer has been full of longing, in search of a purpose she can’t quite name. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites her to make something out of her new sense of awakening. Over time, Faith leads Greer along the most exciting and rewarding path of her life, as it wings toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory, and the future she’d always imagined. As Cory’s path, too, is altered in ways that feel beyond his control, both of them are asked to reckon with what they really want. What does it mean to be powerful? How do people measure their impact upon the world, and upon one another? Does all of this look different for men than it does for women?
With humor, wisdom, and profound intelligence, Meg Wolitzer weaves insights about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition into a moving story that looks at the romantic ideals we pursue deep into adulthood: ideals relating not just to whom we want to be with, but who we want to be. At its heart, The Female Persuasion is about the select figures and experiences that shape our lives. It’s about the people who guide and the people who follow- and how those roles evolve over time. And it acknowledges the flame we all want to believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time.
In the vein of The Interestings, the book follows a handful of characters: Greer Kadetsky, a shy college student who blossoms into a young feminist role model; Zee Eisenstat, longtime activist, lesbian, and Greer’s college best friend, who has long been betrayed by the women in her life; Cory Pinto, Greer’s high school sweetheart who takes over his mother’s roles as caretaker and housekeeper after the tragic dispensation of his family; and finally Faith Frank, the famous feminist who offers Greer a job straight out of college and mentors her into becoming the woman she is through their work at Faith’s women’s foundation.
Though the novel tells the story of these four characters, there is a heavy focus on Greer, and she is, in a sense, the main character, especially in the beginning of the novel. She was by far my favorite character, simply because we share so many qualities. Like me, Greer is quiet and introspective, but as she progresses through college she becomes bolder and less afraid to share her opinion. I haven’t read many college-age narratives so I enjoyed reading about Greer’s life as a college freshman particularly because I just finished my freshman year! Furthermore, Greer moves to New York after college, and that’s exactly what I want to do! Recognizing myself in the main character definitely made this novel a page-turner for me.
“If the twenty-first century taught you anything, it was that your words belonged to everyone, even if they actually didn’t.”
-Meg Wolitzer, The Female Persuasion
The Female Persuasion is the perfect book to lose yourself in. It’s an easy read, not necessarily a beach read but more like a book club read, in which there’s plenty to discuss and most readers will find something they like. It’s dialogue-heavy with simple readable prose, but the insights Wolitzer provides are what makes it such a powerful read. The Female Persuasion will definitely stay with me for a long time.