“The Female Persuasion” by Meg Wolitzer

The Female PersuasionI read a lot of books that are primarily plot-driven, but I read Meg Wolitzer’s books because they’re character-driven: she writes so brilliantly about people and what makes them tick. Her 2013 novel The Interestings followed a group of six teenagers who meet at a summer camp, taking them from youth to middle age. The main character in The Female Persuasion, Greer Kadetsky, is only in her early 30s when the book ends, but her mentor, feminist icon Faith Frank, is nearing 80, and the trajectory of Faith’s life may serve as a preview of the difficult choices, sacrifices and compromises which will eventually be faced by Greer.

Greer is a college freshman when a chance encounter with Faith changes the course of her life. After graduation, she goes to work for Faith’s new foundation, Loci, which is well-funded by a venture capitalist. Faith (and Greer) hope they can use the money to help struggling women around the world, but the people who hold the purse strings are more concerned with providing feel-good workshops to affluent Americans. (The descriptions of Loci’s leadership summits sounded like a cross between Oprah’s Super Soul Sessions and Gwyneth Paltrow’s In Goop Health festival.)

Along with Faith and Greer, Wolitzer also pays exquisite attention to the lives of Greer’s boyfriend Cody, her best friend Zee, and Emmett Shrader, the billionaire pumping money into Loci. But the heart of the book is the complicated relationship between Greer and Faith, which is inevitably somewhat one-sided given how famous and beloved Faith is. Looking at a box of gifts given to her over the years by fans, Emmett ponders: “All of these women had needed a connection with Faith. She was plasma to them. Maybe it was a mommy thing, he thought, but maybe it was also: I want to be you. There were so many of these women, just so many. But there was only one Faith.”

In the final chapter of The Female Persuasion, a character refers to “the big terribleness,” a time when “indignity after indignity had taken place, constant hammerstrikes against everything they cared about.” What a tonic it is to read a novel about two strong female characters, with all their flaws and faults, both working toward a world where women “could feel capable and safe and free.”

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3 thoughts on ““The Female Persuasion” by Meg Wolitzer

  1. Laura July 18, 2018 / 12:45 pm

    She does write brilliantly about people and what makes them tick! I actually went into my local bookstore to get ‘The Female Persuasion,’ but I walked out with ‘The Ten-Year Nap.’ The quote on the cover got me. They both seem to have similar themes though, and if ‘The Ten-Year Nap’ ends as good as it begins, I’ll definitely buy this one!

    Like

    • trow125 July 18, 2018 / 12:49 pm

      I haven’t read “The Ten-Year Nap” — as a non-mom, I guess the subject matter didn’t really appeal to me. But I have enjoyed all her other books, so I should probably read it at some point!

      Like

      • Laura July 19, 2018 / 2:34 pm

        That makes sense. I would have enjoyed it before I was a mom, but I probably wouldn’t have loved it. The Ten-Year Nap is my first book by Wolitzer, but I will definitely be reading more.

        Like

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