The Divining Wand

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Meg Waite Clayton and The Four Ms. Bradwells

April 18, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


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.

There is critical and popular Praise for the Literary Guild Book Club Fiction Selection
/Mystery Guild Selection as well as an Excerpt of Part I, introducing Mia and her perspective of the present.

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!

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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.

Catherine McKenzie and Arranged

March 07, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Although not the book’s subtitle, the question of WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT? appears on the front cover of Catherine McKenzie’s (Spin) second novel Arranged. And its answer is told within the pages.

With an insightful and wry perspective on modern romance, the author puts a twist on those thirtysomethings — or any age groups — looking for a home, family and marriage. Because, after all, it is finding someone/anyone to share that ultimate relationship that presents a challenge.

“Aha?!” No, Catherine admits that the idea for the novel didn’t come to her as a full-blown storyline. Instead it followed her normal creative process of gathering bits of pieces from here and there. For example she did know a few couples who had arranged marriages and, of course, what facts had been gleaned from watching The Bachelor. This information, combined with wondering who would participate in either, whirled around in her mind until it became Arranged:

Anne Blythe has a great life: a good job, good friends and a potential book deal for her first novel. When it comes to finding someone to share it with, however, she just can’t seem to get it right.

After yet another relationship ends, Anne comes across a business card for what she thinks is a dating service, and she pockets it just in case. When her best friend, Sarah, announces she’s engaged, Anne can’t help feeling envious. On an impulse, she decides to give the service a try because maybe she could use a little assistance in finding the right man. But Anne soon discovers the company isn’t a dating service; it’s an exclusive, and pricey, arranged marriage service. She initially rejects the idea, but the more she thinks about it – and the company’s success rate – the more it appeals to her. After all, arranged marriages are the norm for millions of women around the world, so why wouldn’t it work for her?

A few months later, Anne is travelling to a Mexican resort where in one short weekend she will meet and marry Jack. And against all odds, it seems to be working out – until Anne learns that Jack and the company that arranged their marriage are not what they seem at all.

Of course there is Praise for Arranged, but the real proof of what a relevant, clever, and refreshing tale this is can be found at the HarperCollinsCanada site where you’re invited to Browse Inside. Please take advantage of the publisher’s generosity for there is more to read than merely browse here.

Anne, Jack and the supporting cast of vivid characters — including friends AND family members — have a good sense of themselves and an even better sense of Anne. They’re witty, wise and believable as they try to shed light on Anne’s dating/relationship failures. However one must realize the truth for herself and this protagonist is no exception. The revelations she makes though, along the way, are both charming and confusing, supporting Catherine McKenzie’s message.

For, within the fantasy world of fiction, the author’s hope is to convey how limiting it can be to believe that there is only one person out in the world for everyone — a soulmate. Instead of predestination there are romantic choices and, for her character of Anne Blythe, there may even be an alternative method to discover that choice.

Catherine’s writing is a combination of light, funny, and profound as she tells the story of how a single woman thinks love should be as easy as a fairy tale. In other words it’s all magic, there’s no need to work at love. Except when faced with the invitation of an arranged marriage where, based on a compatibility quotient, there is allegedly no need for love. Common interests, respect, and friendship statistically create successful bonds, so what’s love got to do with it and does it even belong?

The unexpected twists of this novel are brilliant yet not surprising considering the flawed, very human characters. And — with prominent themes of loneliness, loyalty, trust, and friendship at its core — the reader can expect a tale of truth as well.

Taking on a modern day dilemma with a possible solution from an age old tradition, Catherine McKenzie offers readers a delightful experience of exploring what real love is and means. Arranged can be purchased through Amazon.ca, please do so….you will more than enjoy!

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[Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters is at #14 this week on The New York Times Bestseller List. And on March 21st Eleanor begins her West Coast book tour, please check her website’s Events for details.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Catherine McKenzie’s Arranged 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, March 9, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.