Monday, November 2, 2020

The Wrong Kind of Woman

  The Wrong Kind of Woman
Author:  Sarah McCraw Crow
Publication Information:  MIRA Books. 2020. 320 pages.
ISBN:  0778310078 / 978-0778310075

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Oliver died the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the air heavy with snow that hadn't fallen yet."

Favorite Quote:  "The young women have made their point"

***** BLOG TOUR *****


Clarendon College in New Hampshire is an all boys college with its fraternities, its old boys network, and its very clear lack of diversity. Oliver Desmarais had come to Clarendon College as a last resort when other career opportunities did not work out. He taught history. Virginia Desmarais gave up on her dreams and her pursuit of a PhD as she supported her husband's career and as cares of family took precedence. They, along with their teenage daughter Rebecca, are settled in this small town, or so it seems.

The time is 1970. One day, Oliver drops dead of an aneurysm.. What is Virginia to do? She is in need of reinventing her own life and preserving her daughters. Her vision of a cozy, family life in this small town was what she was counting on regardless of whether or not it had ever been her dream. With Oliver's death, that vision has been shattered. So, what is next?

She finds unexpected support in four women associated with the college - all outspoken and unmarried. They have been labeled the Gang of Four (a nod to the Congressional Squad of four strong, outspoken women?) by the men of the school. This group includes Louise, the one tenured female faculty member at Clarendon, which is interesting as she was also Oliver's nemesis. Yet, the women find themselves growing closer, finding commonilties where they thought differences existed.

Set in the context of the women's movement and its impending arrival at Clarendon College, this book has the potential to tell that story through the voices of these women and others at the college. The fact that these conversations are still occurring today makes the topic and the book relevant. That is the book I expect. It is not quite the book I read.

The story is told through different perspectives including Virginia, her daughter, and - the one that surprised me - Sam, a male student at Clarendon and one of Oliver's proteges. Unfortunately, the voices switch frequently and at time with no transition, making it challenging to follow and giving a scattered feel to the entire book. It was not easy to get through!

The most intriguing thought of this book is captured in its title - the wrong kind of woman. Who is that? What makes her wrong? Who decides if she is right or wrong? Louise carves out a place for herself as the only tenured faculty at an otherwise all male school. Is she wrong or does the environment label her as wrong? Virginia is reminded of her dreams and attempts to have a life beyond one just as a mother. Many in this time and place label that as wrong. Rebecca is a young woman devastated by loss but also finding her voice as a woman. Is that wrong?

So many for so long have labeled the choices of women as "wrong" if they are made for the women themselves and if they challenge existing societal boundaries. Looking around me today, it amazes me how far we have come and yet how frequently, these same conversations are taking place today. I wish the book had delivered this statement in a stronger way and in the context of a stronger story, but it is a reminder of an important statement nevertheless.

About the Book

A powerful exploration of what a woman can be when what she should be is no longer an option.

In late 1970, Oliver Desmarais drops dead in his front yard while hanging Christmas lights. In the year that follows, his widow, Virginia, struggles to find her place on the campus of the elite New Hampshire men’s college where Oliver was a professor. While Virginia had always shared her husband’s prejudices against the four outspoken, never-married women on the faculty—dubbed the Gang of Four by their male counterparts—she now finds herself depending on them, even joining their work to bring the women’s movement to Clarendon College.

Soon, though, reports of violent protests across the country reach this sleepy New England town, stirring tensions between the fraternal establishment of Clarendon and those calling for change. As authorities attempt to tamp down “radical elements,” Virginia must decide whether she’s willing to put herself and her family at risk for a cause that had never felt like her own.

Told through alternating perspectives, The Wrong Kind of Woman is an engrossing story about finding the strength to forge new paths, beautifully woven against the rapid changes of the early ‘70s.

About the Author

Sarah McCraw Crow grew up in Virginia but has lived most of her adult life in New Hampshire. Her short fiction has run in Calyx, Crab Orchard Review, Good Housekeeping, So to Speak, Waccamaw, and Stanford Alumni Magazine. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Stanford University, and is finishing an MFA degree at Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she's not reading or writing, she's probably gardening or snowshoeing (depending on the weather).

Social Links

Author website:

Buy Links

Barnes & Noble

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

No comments:

Post a Comment