Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger, best friends since law school, have reunited for a long weekend as Betts awaits Senate confirmation of her appointment to the Supreme Court. Nicknamed “the Ms. Bradwells” during their first class at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979—when only three women had ever served full Senate terms and none had been appointed to the Court—the four have supported one another through life’s challenges: marriages and divorces, births and deaths, career setbacks and triumphs large and small. Betts was, and still is, the Funny One. Ginger, the Rebel. Laney, the Good Girl. And Mia, the Savant.
But when the Senate hearings uncover a deeply buried skeleton in the friends’ collective closet, the Ms. Bradwells retreat to a summer house on the Chesapeake Bay, where they find themselves reliving a much darker period in their past—one that stirs up secrets they’ve kept for, and from, one another, and could change their lives forever.
The four women in this book were beautifully written to be strong, smart, honest, flawed and loyal. Their friendship knew no bounds, yet Clayton avoided the sentimentality I tend to steer clear of in women's fiction. Clayton presented four women that I would be proud to call my friends!
The events of the mysterious weekend were unfolded as the author easily switched between past and present as each of the main characters took turns telling their stories.
The only thing I may have changed is the first person points of view from each of the Four Ms. Bradwells. Unfortunately, each character had not established her own voice to me until well into the book, and I had to keep turning to the beginning of the chapters to be sure of whose voice I was reading. That being said, the lack of omniscience held the suspense for me right up to the end.
There were so many aspects of this novel to love, but my favorite thing about The Four Ms. Bradwells was the poignant debate of women and our place in American society today. Meg Waite Clayton had a point to make, but she didn't beat us over the heads with it. She skillfully set us up, and made us check our 21st century selves!
I don't care if you're Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, the one thing women on both sides of the aisle can agree on is the double standard that is alive and well in America today.
"But women are held to higher standards," Ginger says. "In all that ImClone insider trading mess, who was the only one who ended up serving time? Martha...Stewart. Who took the fall for employing an illegal immigrant nanny? Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood because of course we can't have an attorney general who breaks the law, never mind that our very male secretary of the treasury had $34,000 of unpaid taxes on an illegal nanny before he was confirmed. Do you think there's a double standard?"
I wanted to stand up and leap into this conversation, adding my own opinions of how strong, successful women such as Hilary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Meg Whitman and even Michelle Obama have been treated by the press, by their fellow women!
For these four friends, the fight started with Bradwell v. Illinois and continues today.
I love a novel that makes me feel or makes me think. Meg Waite Clayton has succeeded in doing both. Bravo!
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About the Book:
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (March 22, 2011)
Meg Waite Clayton is the author of the national bestseller The Wednesday Sisters and The Language of Light, a finalist for the Bellwether Prize. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, she lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband and their two sons.
*Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.