Jarvis (The Marriage Sabbatical, 2000) chronicles the adventures of 13 California women who pooled their money to buy a $37,000 diamond necklace.
They named it Jewelia (in honor of Julia Child, who had died two months earlier in 2004) and determined that each of them would have it for 28 days, during her birthday month. Through sharing the necklace, this passionate and diverse group became a charitable and unifying community force as well as a close-knit band of friends. They far outshone their purchase, but the author is so dazzled by the diamonds that she devalues the women who wore them. Rather than examining why a luxury item was necessary to catalyze such nourishing togetherness, Jarvis continually gushes that the necklace is a magical miracle. She bombards us with tales of the transcendent ecstasy the women experienced when donning Jewelia, but she never explores why it inspired such excitement and Buddha-like empathy for others. Although the book is trumpeted as an anti-materialist lesson in the value of collaboration, the author mostly misses what was truly remarkable about the collective: the fact that its founding members looked beyond their usual social circles when recruiting partners, uniting people who seemingly had nothing in common and in several cases alleviating long-standing feelings of loneliness and isolation. Why would diamonds, of all things, inspire this unusual openness? Does modern life have so few vehicles for sisterhood that shopping is the one thing we have left? Jarvis avoids wrestling with such ideas, preferring to fawn and overstate.
As frivolous as its centerpiece.