Saturday, November 4, 2017

Young Jane Young

Title:  Young Jane Young
Author:  Gabrielle Zevin
Publication Information:  Algonquin Books. 2017. 320 pages.
ISBN:  1616205040 / 978-1616205041

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "My dear friend Roz Horowitz met her new husband online dating."

Favorite Quote:  "Anticipating the worst doesn't provide insurance against the worst happening."

Young Jane Young dives into the world of politics, the seemy underside that often times wreaks havoc with lives. Rachel Shapiro is a mom, fierce in her love for her daughter but concerned about the choices her daughter makes and the consequences of those choices. Aviva Grossman is the young woman who falls in love with the wrong person and forever alters the course of her life. Embeth Levin is a wife who has to decide the balance between the good and the bad in her marriage. Jane Young is a woman content to leave her past far behind and live a quiet life in a small town in Maine. Ruby Young is the next generation, who draws the thread between past and present closed.

The book hits at serious issues of the gender divide that still exists in so many arenas but particularly in the world of politics. The story is about strong women who make compromises to live with the double standards and come around time and time again upon these inequitable gender standards.

A married man has an affair. The woman is shamed as having seduced him. A wife holds no expectations of fidelity. The young women caught in a political scandal is forced to build a new life after the headlines fade and move on to the next scandal. The secret of a woman's long ago past comes back to impact her current career.

This book is interesting because it is unexpected. The book is clearly focused on the women in the story even though the plot is all about the impact of their relationships with the men in their lives. The characters of the men, particularly the married politician at the heart of the scandal, are relatively one-dimensional and only present to give definition to the women's stories.

The story also begins in one direction and then takes a turn with every character. Just when I think I know where it is going, it brings in the impact on another person and tells another side of the story. Admittedly, the first half of the book is an adult perspective and the more interesting part of the book.

The entire section from the Ruby Young's perspective is a little too precocious for my taste. Ruby is young; yet, she helps her mother run her business, has her own American Express card, tells the story in letters to her pen pal, and has the confidence to take of on her own on a cross-country trip to find her past. Cute but a bit much. The ending winds back to an adult perspective and plays a game of "what if" which again brings the book back to the serious underlying issues.

The book is a quick, often light-hearted read that in its breezy manner leaves me with a lot to think about. "Because the things we don't have are sadder than the things we have. Because the things we don't have exist in our imagination, where they are perfect."

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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