The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

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.

Guest Meg Waite Clayton on
Thoughts on Perfect Necks and Imperfect Friends

April 12, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Although quick to note that her novels are not autobiographical, Meg Waite Clayton
(The Wednesday Sisters) admits that she falls back on her own emotions and experiences while writing. And, in today’s guest post, the author offers how her past shine through in The Four Ms. Bradwells.]

Thoughts on Perfect Necks and Imperfect Friends

Lovely neck on that The Four Ms. Bradwells book jacket, isn’t it? Pretty much the perfect neck. The perfect young neck in perfect white pearls on the cover of a book about four perfect…

Well, not exactly perfect.

O.K., not even close to exactly perfect.

Like all of us, Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger – a.k.a. the four Ms. Bradwells – are flawed. They are grown-up women who have been friends since the days when they may or may not have had gorgeous necks like the one on the cover of The Four Ms. Bradwells. The novel cuts back and forth between the present starting-to-feel-bad-about-my neck phase of their lives – when Betts is in confirmation hearings to become a Supreme Court justice – and their good-neck years. That’s when things began to go bad for them, in their good-neck years. The skeleton they buried together back then – one with a considerably more masculine neck – has surfaced. Untimely questions are being asked.

Mia’s neck would have been a bit chubbier than “the neck” even back then, when they were burying that skeleton, on an island in the Chesapeake Bay where Ginger’s family had a summer house, and still does. Laney has the best neck now, but even she would tell you her neck was scrawny back in the day. Betts … Well, Betts would joke that they should have wrung that neck when they had a chance to, but she would never lay claim to it. Ginger might or might not; one never knows with Ginger. She’s the Ms. Bradwell most likely to have had “the neck.”

Ginger’s mom, Faith, almost certainly had the neck. She had pearls, too, although they were gray pearls rather than white. Sadly, when we tried gray pearls on the cover, they didn’t “pop.”

Women of any age can relate to “the neck,” my publisher assured me, and I went off happily repeating that phrase: we can all relate to that neck, as if I might once have had “the neck” myself.

“Admire the neck on the cover,” I emailed my friend Sheryl, whom I’ve known since the sixth grade. “Surely we had necks like this, didn’t we?”


Her caps.

It made me laugh, the way dear friends do leave you laughing at the less important things in life. Like the Ms. Bradwells laugh together, even when things look grim.

Like them, Sheryl and I have both been through enough of life’s challenges to place much importance on the state of our necks.

O.K., not too much importance on the state of our necks.

But for the record, if Sheryl didn’t have the neck, then nobody did. More importantly, she was smart and thoughtful, and a wonderful friend.

The Four Ms. Bradwells is in some small way a tribute to friends like Sheryl, and like my own law school roommates who lived together on Division Street, in a house with a ratty old couch on the front port, like the Ms. Bradwells’ house. Jenn and Darby and Sheri. You can see their young necks here. Look at Jenn, on the far left of the top photo. Pretty nice neck, isn’t it?

It was a pleasure to sit down to write each morning, to wrap myself up in those friendships, and write from that wonderful, warm place.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of Jael McHenry’s The Kitchen Daughter in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Jael McHenry and The Kitchen Daughter. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, April 13, 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.

The Revealing of Meg Waite Clayton

April 06, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Following the success of her national bestseller The Wednesday Sisters, Meg Waite Clayton returns with another tale of friendship in The Four Ms. Bradwells available in local bookstores and at online retailers now.

A Literary Guild Book Club Fiction Selection
 and A Mystery Guild Selection, the book’s one sentence description promises: A page-turning novel that explores the secrets we keep, even from those closest to us, and celebrates the enduring power of friendship.

And its early Praise confirms:

“This is a stirring and compelling novel about women’s changing roles.” –-Booklist

“Fans of Elizabeth Noble, Ann Hood, Elin Hilderbrand, and other luminaries of female friendship fiction will find much to captivate them.”Library Journal

“An exquisitely written novel about the heartbreaking and heartwarming moments of life and friendship and everything in between, The Four Ms. Bradwells will resonate with you long after you’ve turned the final page on these wonderful women. Don’t miss a second of their journey.”—Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of Time of My Life and The One That I Want

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of The Four Ms. Bradwells for Monday, April 18, 2011 but, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Meg Waite Clayton is the author of the national bestseller, THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS, THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT, which was a Bellwether Prize finalist, and the forthcoming THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS (Ballantine, March 2011). She’s also hosts the blog, 1st Books: Stories of How Writers Get Started, which features award-winning and bestselling authors sharing stories about their paths to writing and publishing. Her short stories and essays have been read on public radio and have appeared in commercial and literary magazines. She’s a graduate of the University of Michigan and Michigan Law School, and lives with her family in Palo Alto, California.

Now, for the upclose and personal profile, as Meg reveals:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Living the dream with family, books, and pen

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”— Eleanor Roosevelt

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: A warm manuscript

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Losing one of my sons

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Somewhere I’ve never been before. Top choice at the moment: Iguazu Falls

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Identify? I’m not admitting that!

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I’m going to narrow the field to living writers, and say Harper Lee.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: “anyway” in speach. “and” in writing

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Singing

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: My sons – can they count as an achievement? They are both amazing, but I suppose I can’t claim all the credit for them. So if not them, then my books

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Oh, just name any one of the seven deady sins!

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: (running though the seven virtues, which admittedly I had to google first: Prudence? Not so much. Restraint? Ha!)
I’m probably not bad at love, although perhaps that’s cheating. It’s easy to love back, given all the love I get.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: That Mac had to propose seven times before I said yes. What was I thinking?!

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: A novelist. 🙂

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Freckles. If I spend too much time in the sun, they start to run together so that my face looks dirty. Seriously.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Dorothea Brooke from Middlemarch

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Lucy Steele from Sense and Sensibility

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I had the great thrill of meeting the athlete I most wanted to meet – Joan Benoit Samuelson (winner of the gold medal in the first women’s Olympic marathon) – at a breakfast the day before a half marathon we both ran a few months after The Wednesday Sisters released. I’m afraid I stammered something incomprehensible.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: selfishness

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Can I say this one in polite company?

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Again, that would be novelist. Pinch me!

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Generosity of Spirit

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Extra Dark Chocolate

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: And So it Goes by Billy Joel, when sang by my son Nick.

I could list four others, but they would be such distant seconds…

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Middlemarch by George Eliot
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

A believer in the power of women and the value of friendship, Meg Waite Clayton is an author to learn from by following her on Twitter and becoming a fan on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of Darien Gee’s Friendship Bread in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Darien Gee and Friendship Bread. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.

What If….Robin Antalek and Meg Waite Clayton?

July 07, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites

What a day — or more — for a daydream in the summer heat of July. In fact it feels like the perfect time to wonder “what if” The Divining Wand possessed magical powers and could grant authors, who create their own magic with “what if,” the following two questions:

Based only on their writing, what author would you want to be?


If given the opportunity to have written ONE book in your lifetime, what would that title be?

~ Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I can pick only one? Yikes. Okay. If I have to…. It would be Ellen Gilchrist. She is a wonderful writer that has created a body of work over her lifetime that I would be thrilled to claim ownership of—her stories – her characters – her depictions of the deep south are astounding. Simply and utterly astounding. I return to her stories again and again.”

“I don’t prescribe to any one religion so I don’t want my answer to be taken in that context, but it would have to be The Bible. Every plot in existence is contained within those pages: virgin births, famine, poverty, wives who turn to salt, magical tablets, brother against brother, prostitutes who love holy men and seas that part. It goes on and on – and I doubt there isn’t a novel in existence whose plot couldn’t be traced back to the pages of The Bible.”

~ Meg Waite Clayton’s (The Wednesday Sisters, The Four Ms. Bradwells coming March 22, 2011):

“George Eliot. Middlemarch.”

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