Meg Waite Clayton's sophomore novel, The Four Ms. Bradwells, is one I was anxiously looking forward to. I loved, loved, loved The Wednesday Sisters so much when it was published a few years ago. Over the past few weeks I have been in a bit of a reading slump and even though I have some really great books - probably TOO many - really great books to read, I don't have a lot of motivation or time to get them done.
The Four Ms. Bradwells was started a while ago. I picked it up and got a ways into it, and then started some other things that were due back to the library sooner than The Four Ms. Bradwells. I started it again, and then put it down again. By this point I was far enough into it that I was frustrated by not really feeling connected to the characters at all. So, I put it down again. On Monday I pulled it out of my school bag and decided I was really going to put some effort into this book. And that meant starting to read it all over again. Doing something like that is really painful for me. In fact, I can't even remember the last time I have had to start a book over from the beginning. But the pay-off was worth it. Although I didn't love The Four Ms. Bradwells as much as The Wednesday Sisters, I did like it, and I am happy I made decision to give this book a fair shot.
The Four Ms. Bradwells are four women who attended law school together. Betts, Laney, Mia, and Ginger are all from different backgrounds, but forge a friendship at law school and are close even 25 years (give or take a few years) later. They have raised families, been in and out of love, married, divorced, buried parents, achieved professional success and failures in this time. Now as Betts awaits a Supreme Court nomination the four women come together again. They return to Ginger's family's summer home on a secluded island where they plan to relax and leave the media scrutiny that Betts is under, behind. However, the women all reflect on what happened on the island during their first visit, an event that Betts was questioned about during her confirmation hearings.
There is a bit of mystery surrounding the events of this weekend so many years ago, even though I don't think it was Clayton's intent to create suspense. This book is truly a women's fiction novel that explores friendship between women and how these bonds grow and change over many years. I was interested by Clayton's decision to write this novel in the present over the span of just three days with little of the action truly taking place in this time frame. Much of the book is dedicated to the weekend that Betts is questioned about and the friendship these women forged. I have read many books with alternating narrators and enjoy that style of writing. I enjoyed it in The Four Ms. Bradwells, but also recognized that I was having to pay a great deal of attention to who was narrating each chapter. Still, even with restarting this book, I didn't feel a strong connection to any one character and was not able to discern one narrator's voice from the others.
As with The Wednesday Sisters, I wonder how much of this novel was farmed from Clayton's own experiences. She, like the Four Ms. Bradwells, also graduated from law school. Knowing that I found this novel more engaging and interesting because I assume there must be a personal connection somewhere in this story.
Although I may seem critical of this novel, I also admit to enjoying it a great deal. While this is not a novel I am gushing about, I feel it is one that - even now and as time passes- I will grow to appreciate more after having completed it.
I'd love to hear other thoughts on The Four Ms. Bradwells. Discussion, anyone?