Marilyn French’s seven million copy bestseller The Women’s Room crystallized the issues that ignited the women’s movement. Now the acclaimed author updates that classic with a new exploration of the truths and realities behind women’s lives. In the Name of Friendship dares to investigate how the women’s movement changed the lives of those it touched and what hurdles it left to cross.
Set in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, this wise novel is a group portrait of four disparate women who forge life-altering friendships despite personalities that vary as greatly as their vocations and ages. The novel weaves together a series of family crises with the friendships that help the four women refashion their lives. Maddy, the seventy-six-year-old real estate agent and matriarch of the group, struggles with the gradual death of her angry and rebellious Vietnam-marked son; fifty-year-old Alicia fights to reconnect her gay son with her newly retired husband; seventy-year-old musician Emily strives to bridge the gap with her estranged niece right at the moment her composition career starts to finally bloom; and Jenny, the thirty-year-old painter and baby of the group, questions the life she has created with her successful painter husband and tries to decide if she wants more from life.
With this unusual group of multi-generational ladies, French tells a truly rare tale about four women who accidentally come into each other’s lives and in the process form an enduring friendship. It is a story of supporting one another, of looking at the grim conflicts created by cultural expectations of women, and realizing you are not alonetruly a tale of continuing hope.
About the Author
Marilyn French (1929-2009) was an American writer and notable feminist scholar. She received her BA from Hofstra College (now Hofstra University) in 1951; in 1964, she returned to Hofstra to earn her M.A. and later earned her PhD from Harvard University. French is best known for her first novel, the 21-million-copy bestseller The Women's Room , which is considered one of the most influential works of the modern feminist movement, and its sequel, In the Name of Friendship. She spent fifteen years researching and writing her immensely readable four volume women's history series From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women in the World. Her other non-fiction works include Beyond Power: On Women, Men, and Morals ; The War Against Women ; and her memoir on her battle with esophageal cancer, A Season in Hell. In addition to writing, French taught at Hofstra, Harvard, and Holy Cross College.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Failed my 50-page test...and I gave it 100 pages because I like her previous work.I had expected French's new novel of ideas to be about the kinds of older women I could more easily identify with now -- women, married or not, who had gone to work and fought for careers; women who had left their husbands back in the 1970s and raised children alone; women now dealing with loneliness, health problems, uncertain economic futures. But French's women are a rather rarefied group. Exceedingly well-versed in feminist theory and women's history, they venerate Emma Goldman, Emily Dickinson and Eleanor of Aquitaine and celebrate their profound friendship every March 25, on Lady's Day, the pagan new year, by dancing with each other. However none of the three married women ever opted (or was forced) to become self-supporting or to contribute to a struggling household; even the life of the unmarried composer has been eased by the house she inherited from her family. Sitting on Jenny's porch, with no financial worries hanging over them, it is easy for them to congratulate themselves on their beautiful absence of competitive spirit. (There seem to be no poorer women with fewer choices in Steventon; they all live in Bridgeport, where Emily's niece has opened a free maternity clinic.)
I was so glad to find this at exactly the moment when I needed just this kind of affirmation. I especially liked that the central characters were of various ages and from economically diverse origins. Marilyn French has a way of weaving social issues, especially those pertaining to women, into her stories in a way that invites the reader to examine them from a personal perspective. For those of you who usually like the dimestore romance type of books, this novel has some of the same elements (relationships, drama, love) but with more substance. Try it out.