National bestselling author Meg Waite Clayton (The Wednesday Sisters) had a dream of becoming a novelist but — not knowing how to achieve that career — she went to college to become a doctor and emerged from academia seven years later as a corporate lawyer. Truth and dreams have a way of being recognized though. They did for Meg and they also did for her characters in The Four Ms. Bradwells.
Intelligent, insightful, and issue-complicated, the story is an ode to the author’s law school friends and the University of Michigan Law School itself. The combination of the two helped her discover and explore the strengths she needed to face the challenges of being a women in a restricted, male-dominated professional world thirty years ago. Have things changed? Well that’s the basis for the novel which asks the intriguing question: What would happen if four women told the truth about their lives?
These women/friends answer as the storyline evolves into the novel’s synopsis:
Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger, best friends since law school, have reunited for a long weekend as Betts awaits Senate confirmation of her appointment to the Supreme Court. Nicknamed “the Ms. Bradwells” during their first class at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979—when only three women had ever served full Senate terms and none had been appointed to the Court—the four have supported one another through life’s challenges: marriages and divorces, births and deaths, career setbacks and triumphs large and small. Betts was, and still is, the Funny One. Ginger, the Rebel. Laney, the Good Girl. And Mia, the Savant.
But when the Senate hearings uncover a deeply buried skeleton in the friends’ collective closet, the Ms. Bradwells retreat to a summer house on the Chesapeake Bay, where they find themselves reliving a much darker period in their past—one that stirs up secrets they’ve kept for, and from, one another, and could change their lives forever.
Once again, Meg Waite Clayton writes inspiringly about the complex circumstances facing women and the heartfelt friendships that hold them together. Insightful and affecting, The Four Ms. Bradwells is also a captivating tale of how far people will go to protect the ones they love.
Alternating the narration from the first person voices of Mia, Betts, Ginger, and Laney, their personal stories are told in flashbacks colored by the individual’s truths. Some are secrets, guilty evasions, and personal jealousies harbored over the decades. In other words, exactly what one would expect from real life friendships that holds together by a silent bond of loyalty, trust, and love.
The author acknowledges that secrets are a central theme of the novel and she further explains:
“I suppose the thing about secrets is that we often keep them out of shame. And the things that shame us often shouldn’t. They’re often things that are not our fault—and yet they’re also often things that we will be judged for, consciously or not. Or failures that we and others can learn from if we’re willing to examine what happened. Is there a message in that? I suppose that if more of us shared our secrets we might see how common life’s challenges are. But it takes a brave person to come forward.”
Are all the four Ms. Bradwells brave enough to disclose their secrets from thirty years ago in order to save Betts’ Supreme Court Nomination from the skeleton of their past? They buried it back then, however — as the adage promises: The truth will out.
Although Meg Waite Clayton’s characters are strong, independent, and seemingly successful — a journalist, a lawyer turned poet, a senator, a potential Supreme Court Justice — they share the same vulnerabilities as anyone else. For example, each one has had issues with their mother and, now, with their daughters. And, while these friends have survived and succeeded, there remains a nagging doubt if they have achieved what was expected of them.
Complete with storylines of sexual harassment, unreported rape, gay ex-husbands, fellow woman-envy, and even Anita Hill versus Clarence Thomas, The Four Ms. Bradwells is a thought-provoking novel with heart. Yes there is also a mysterious death (no spoilers here) but its suspicious cause serves as a means to tighten the present friendships. The four Ms. Bradwells do tell their truth and, if you’re looking for an honest, reflective book about what it means to be a friend, Meg Waite Clayton has written a “must read.” Enjoy!
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of The Four Ms. Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.