The Female Persuasion – Meg Wolitzer

She sometimes said “I don’t know,“ even when she did know. What she meant was that it was more comfortable to stay in vagueness than to leave it.

The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer, p. 19

Bold as its strikingly colorful cover suggests, The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer is an ode to being a woman, to purpose, dedication and passion. It tells a story about how life often leads ambitious young people ways they certainly would not have chosen for themselves in the beginning.

The Story

Young and rather shy Greer Kadetsky is a freshman at a College she does not want to be at when she meets the charismatic and fascinating feminist Faith Frank. At age sixty-three, Faith has been part of the US women’s movement for years. Greer, who is one of plenty of girls who have recently been harassed by a fellow student, is instantly drawn toward the elegant woman and seeks her advice. Though deeply in love with her high school boyfriend Cory, hearing Faith speak inspires Greer to search for a different kind of purpose and fulfillment.

“I have decided that from this day forward, I will never buy food in jars again.“

The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer, p.301

After Greer has finished college, Faith indeed offers her the opportunity to commit herself to a purpose she is convinced of and to enter the world of women’s movement and feminism. Over the years, the path opening in front of Greer and the disarrays and tragedies of life lead her toward and away from Cory and their seemingly meant-to-be love story. It also affects her relationship to her lesbian best friend Zee, who is very disoriented after college and has to go looking for her own life’s destination as well. In the End, the book tells the story of several young people who give themselves over to different purposes while still feeling a strong connection with each other and while staying in need of each other when they are set back on their ways.

Coming-Of-Age

I’ve always liked coming-of-age novels a lot, especially as a teenager. The Body by Stephen King is one of the few stories I enjoyed reading in school. Because this post deals with a book about strong women, I want to note that my mother made me watch the film adaptation Stand by Me years before I read The Body. Probably far too early, because little me was kind of traumatized by it, especially by the scene with the comb and the railroad bridge… Thanks a lot, Mama! But my mother definitely supported my love for coming-of-age novels, not to mention for reading in general.

You know, I sometimes think that the most effective people in the world are introverts who taught themselves how to be extroverts.

The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer, p.45

Because it has also been her who gave me an own copy of The Catcher in the Rye for Saint Nicholas Day (though there already was one her own bookshelf) because in her opinion, it was a book everybody should own. Furthermore, she bought every John Green book she could find for several of my Birthdays in a row, and even in between whenever she realized a new one had been published. By the way, I especially liked Looking for Alaska, even though nobody else seemed to like it and all of my friends settled for The Fault in Our Stars as their favorite John Green. Well, as you may realize, the love for coming-of-age stories, especially for those with a slightly thoughtful and depressing tinge, seems to run in our family.

Nevertheless, all of those stories deal with teenagers on the verge of adulthood. And now, being in my early twenties, I felt like I needed something else. I still enjoy reading stories about leaving childhood behind, on the one hand because most of the time I do not feel very mature myself. On the other hand, I am convinced that even „real“ adults can still learn from tales dealing with courageously breaking new ground.

Persuading as Faith

But, lately, I wanted to read something more relatable for me at this exact moment in my life. Anyway, it should still deal with changes happening at a young age, with readjusting one’s goals and one’s life’s purpose. When the beautiful cover of The Female Persuasion struck me in a bookshop, I sat down in an armchair and began to read. The book was as persuading as Faith Frank herself. I simply did not want to stop reading. This did not happen to me for quite some time, so The Female Persuasion found its way to my home and, right afterwards, to some immensely beautiful lonely beaches in Portugal with me.

Faith was umami, in a way, Greer thought — a special and separate taste that, once you’d tried it, you wanted more of.  

The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer, p.170

It definitely was the right choice as my holiday read, being a book that deals with love and friendship (as most books I recently read seem to do), with losing people, forgiving and being forgiven in a very relatable way. Wonderfully, it combines all those things without exaggerating anything or being overly dramatic. The story and it’s characters seemed very real to me, which is why I would recommend it to every (young) woman, no matter whether she is struggling with the direction her life leads her and with converting her ambitions or not. And to men, too, because it describes feminism in an unprejudiced way, without using any stereotypes of brawling, misandrist women who refuse to wear bras.

Good girls could go far, but they could rarely go the distance. They could rarely be great.

The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer, p.352

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