Three women who met as students navigate middle age together in this debut novel.
Sarah Jane Roth, Miriam Kaplan, and Beth Jacobs became fast friends in college, bonding over boys and political protest while sharing a triple-occupancy dorm room in Buffalo, New York, in the late 1960s. They attended sit-ins more than they attended classes, and they were full of optimism. As they grow older, however, the friends discover how hard it is to achieve their dreams as empowered women. They are, Emory writes, “members of the first generation of women to feel entitled to interesting lives,” but they’re forced to make sacrifices along the way; they trade freedom for security, and assuage loneliness through compromise. In the late 1990s, Beth is a well-regarded therapist who’s married to a wealthy businessman who rubs shoulders with influential politicians. Miriam is an unmarried teacher who makes headlines with her innovative film-education course at a New York City middle school. Sarah is a divorced mother and frustrated editor at a healthcare-marketing company. The novel is set mostly in New York, with forays to Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, and Italy. Each woman must confront a choice in middle age that could lead to an exhilarating life, but would upend what she’s built over decades. Overall, Emory’s writing is smooth and propulsive, and she describes the three main characters’ lives in affectionate detail. As a result, it’s nearly impossible not to relate to each of the three women and empathize with their respective journeys. And as each navigates choices and consequences, the novel poses some serious questions: Is stability worth compromising youthful ideals? Are high-risk, high-reward decisions ever worthwhile? And should past regrets inform future choices? The author also clearly shows the necessity of female friendships, as the women support one another through thick and thin.
An endearing, well-wrought story featuring three strong women.