Mrs. Everything: A Novel

Image of Mrs. Everything: A Novel
Release Date: 
June 11, 2019
Atria Books
Reviewed by: 

Mrs. Everything is Weiner’s boldest, biggest novel yet, spanning two women’s entire lives, complete with the twists, turns, and surprises that are inevitable in any life well lived.”

Jo has always known that her sister Beth is her mother’s favorite. Beth is pretty and petite and loves to wear the frilly dresses and patent leather shoes their mother favors, while Jo feels nothing short of wrong in them. Beth is graceful and well-mannered, while Jo always seems to displease her mother, getting dirty or being unladylike, no matter how hard she tries not to. Their father, on the other hand, is Jo’s greatest advocate sharing her interests, and in his own quiet way, protects her against her mother’s anger toward her, boosting her fragile self-esteem.

When Jo and Beth’s father dies unexpectedly, everything changes for the girls. Not only does Jo lose her only real cheerleader, but their family instantly transforms from one with a stay-at-home mother and a working father to one where they are all doing whatever they can to make ends meet. It is there that both girl’s stories really change. Without the constant watchful, disapproving gaze of her mother, who is now working full time, Jo has more freedom to begin to explore and understand her sexuality, while Beth’s new job, taken to help support the family, leads her to a scarring experience that changes the trajectory of her life.

Jo’s college experience in the sixties is filled with studying, activism, and a woman named Shelley who shares her ideals, teaches her about the woman she is becoming, and ultimately is the person that Jo falls in love with. Upon graduation, the two are planning a trip to India, Turkey, Iran, and Nepal before real life begins. But while Jo wants to move to New York to become a journalist, a job where she believes she can affect very real change, and sees Shelley as her forever, Shelley is far less committal, trying to convince Jo that the world won’t be understanding about their love.

Beth’s college experience is completely different from Jo’s. While Jo is studying and changing the world, Beth is experiences a different side of the 1960s, falling in love with a man named Dev, a drug dealer who shows her a life she never could have imagined, one where she can escape the scars of her past. Only, as Beth soon learns, the drugs she thought were her salvation end up leading her to what is arguably the worst experience of her young life. When Jo comes home to help her sister, the consequences end up affecting the entirety of the rest of her life as well, a comment on how one moment, one tiny choice, can change it all.

Mrs. Everything follows Jo and Beth’s paths through the journeys of their entire lives, speaking to the ways in which people find their paths, the role that family and sisters play in the complicated stories we weave for ourselves and how, in the most unexpected ways, sometimes, no matter how stacked against us the odds seem, we end up exactly where we belong.

Readers have long looked to Jennifer Weiner to bring them tales of complex women with real flaws, real problems, and real stories to tell. Mrs. Everything is Weiner’s boldest, biggest novel yet, spanning two women’s entire lives, complete with the twists, turns, and surprises that are inevitable in any life well lived. While this book takes place over 70 years, the comparisons between the past and today are startling and true, and, no matter the decade that most defined them, women everywhere, while losing themselves in Jo and Beth’s experiences, will find themselves nodding their heads in understanding.