New Fiction

From The Atlantic Monthly:

Book The characters of Meg Wolitzer’s latest novel are so insightful and articulate that it’s a pleasure to listen to them think.

Wolitzer’s engaging novel focuses on women who are breath-takingly educated and fully prepared to fill the most-rigorous roles in the workplace, but who nevertheless spend a good portion of what might have been peak career-building time fully engrossed in child-rearing and homemaking. They have the resources — both external and internal — to be well-satisfied by such a course. At the same time, though, these women are the most inclined to doubt and wonder: having had the opportunity to make any choice at all, did they make the right one? And once they no longer have “the excuse of having a young child at home to use as a human shield against all questions about what [they] ‘did,'” what then? With a light but needle-sharp touch and in a tone at once thoughtful and witty, Wolitzer explores this theme from nearly every possible angle. The cast of this richly peopled story features a group of likable friends in contemporary Manhattan with a wide range of talents and backgrounds, but also reaches back to include their mothers and out to incorporate a friend who has moved to the suburbs. Throughout, Wolitzer draws both fine and significant distinctions as she identifies types that her readers will recognize: the artist who didn’t have the necessary single-minded drive; the promising student who lost her way once she finished her classes; the English major who pragmatically chose the “enclosed pasture” of law school over the “open field&” of literature. Her characters never collapse into stereotype. Among working mothers, for instance, she distinguishes between those in whom the strain was obvious — “they had folders clutched in one hand and a child’s science project involving a potato and a battery in the other” — and the occasional, depressingly enviable one who managed to be feminine and maternal while possessing “power in the hard-shelled, armed male world.”

More here.