Clayton’s latest novel (The Wednesday Sisters, 2008, etc.) concerns four highly successful women exploring their friendship, along with the secrets they have shared and kept from each other for years.
Betts, Ginger, Laney and Mia graduated from law school in the early 1980s—their eponymous name for themselves refers to an 1873 ruling that denied women the right to practice law. Ironically, Ginger, the daughter of fiery feminist Faith, stopped practicing law when she got stuck on the mommy track and has become a poet. Mia, long divorced from her law-school boyfriend, who turned out to be gay, has also left the law to become a journalist. African-American Laney lives in an Atlanta suburb, where she is running for political office. And Betts, a widowed single mother and law professor, has been nominated to the Supreme Court. Her friends come to D.C. to support her during confirmation hearings, which go swimmingly until she’s asked about a mysterious death that occurred in 1982 at a house in Maryland that she was visiting. Amazingly, Betts leaves her advisors (and White House contacts) behind to spend the weekend with her friends, hiding out at the very house where the death occurred: Chawterley, Ginger’s family’s vacation estate on an island in Chesapeake Bay. As the women play Scrabble and reminisce, their private sorrows come to light: betrayals, affairs, heartaches. They also try to piece together what happened that long-ago weekend. It started out as a joyful vacation lark until Ginger’s brother Beau showed up with his villainous cousin Trey and friend Doug. While Mia and Beau hooked up, much to Betts’s jealous chagrin, Laney fended off Trey’s increasingly flirtatious advances, which culminated in a vicious rape. The next day he was found shot dead in what was written off as suicide. The truth that emerges is more complicated.
Though Clayton telegraphs her political points along with her plot and characterizations, there is a definite market for this kind of self-congratulatory women’s empowerment. This one meets all the requirements of Book Club Lit.