Books

Review: 'The Female Persuasion' offers powerful message

Best-selling author Meg Wolitzer tackles a number of timely issues in her epic new novel, “The Female Persuasion,” including sexual assault, mentorship, and what it means to be a feminist today.

Heavy themes, yes, but thanks to Wolitzer’s extensive scaffolding, the weight is evenly distributed throughout the book, resulting in an accessible, thought-provoking work that will appeal to academics and book clubs alike.

“The Female Persuasion” opens in 2006 when shy Greer Kadetsky attends a college lecture by feminist and scholar Faith Frank, a woman described as “a couple steps down from Gloria Steinem.”

Faith’s message about individualism and sisterhood (and sexy boots) strikes a chord with Greer, and when she musters the courage to approach Faith in the bathroom afterward, a mentoring relationship begins — one that ultimately will change both of their lives.

And while the bulk of the novel centers on Greer’s upward trajectory after graduation when she begins working for Faith, Wolitzer often takes the scenic route when it comes to revealing plot points, detouring to follow Greer’s boyfriend Cory as he rockets into a career in finance, then, after a tragedy, finds himself not unhappy scrubbing toilets; and her college friend, Zee, who also struggles — often in entertaining fashion — to grow up. Sections told from Faith’s perspective, and that of the financier of Faith’s new organization, feel less urgent and don’t sparkle with the same heat.

Still, the combination of these narratives adds depth to the world around Greer — the anxious, odd time of your mid-20s that is filled with anxiety, self-doubt and big decisions that should be savored but often are rushed.

“The Female Persuasion” is a welcome reminder of the power behind one voice.

Book club

l What: Barnes & Noble Book Club discusses “The Female Persuasion” by Meg Wolitzer

l When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

l Where: Barnes & Noble, 333 Collins Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids; or Barnes & Noble, Coral Ridge Mall, 1451 Coral Ridge Ave., Coralville

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l Details: Attendees will receive an exclusive bookmark, and one signed copy of this book will be given away per store.

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