Waffling Over Wolitzer’s ‘Female Persuasion’

I read The Interestings in 2014, and it has since held a firm position in my literary arsenal as an all-time favorite. Wolitzer’s ability to mimic the cadence of life [vacillating almost consistently between painful slowness and overwhelming speed, never fair or mild] made The Interestings the perfect book to read on a slow and quiet beach vacation. Since I’ve unfortunately graduated from ‘beach vacation’ to ‘morning subway commute’ as my primary backdrop for book consumption, this languid pace has become a bit harder to stomach—I’m looking for escapism and excitement on my way to work, not a twenty-page description of the dissolution of the main character’s ex-boyfriend’s marriage, beautifully written though it may be. Before I realized this, I simply thought The Female Persuasion was a duller version of The Interestings [pun unavoidable, but unintended]. Once I accepted the fact that I wasn’t necessarily operating in the ideal environment for a Wolitzer book, I was able to appreciate it more.

The Female Persuasion kicks off during Greer Kadetsky’s freshman year of college. Destined for the Ivy League, but relegated to a third-tier liberal arts college due to her parents’ mishaps with her financial aid packages, Greer feels lost and increasingly unable to relate to her boyfriend, who, due to proper handling of his forms and aid packages, ended up at Princeton. Initially determined to simply survive in college, Greer’s course changes when she decides to attend a talk held by Faith Frank, a Gloria Steinem figure, held at the school’s chapel. Moved by Faith’s words, Greer shyly approaches her in the bathroom after the talk, and their conversation develops into a relationship that ultimately determines Greer’s entire career path. From there, The Female Persuasion grapples with the double-edged sword of pushing a feminist agenda in corporate America: the distinction of whether Greer and Faith’s team are truly working towards the equality that Faith has dedicated her life to, or if they’ve sacrificed their purpose to societal and monetary pressures. Frankly, in attempting to write more about this 400+ page tome, I’m coming up a bit short; because, as previously mentioned, Wolitzer’s cadence mimics that of life: vacillating between the languorous and repetitive and the intensely emotional [parts I cannot reveal, for the sake of spoiler alerts]. If you can handle a beautifully written book, but once that often stifles instead of stimulates, then, by all means, go ahead. If you can’t, I’d skip this one for the time being.

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