Review: The Wrong Kind of Woman by Sarah McCraw Crow

I’ve watched more cable news in the last 8 days than I have watched total in the previous 4 years. As a result, I’m behind on my reading, behind on reviewing, and behind on blogging. Trying to fix that now! I finished The Wrong Kind of Woman on the day the election was called for Biden/Harris (yay!) and that seemed appropriate.

What it’s about

From the Goodreads blurb:

In late 1970, Oliver Desmarais drops dead in his front yard while hanging Christmas lights. In the year that follows, his widow, Virginia, struggles to find her place on the campus of the elite New Hampshire men’s college where Oliver was a professor. While Virginia had always shared her husband’s prejudices against the four outspoken, never-married women on the faculty–dubbed the Gang of Four by their male counterparts–she now finds herself depending on them, even joining their work to bring the women’s movement to Clarendon College.

Soon, though, reports of violent protests across the country reach this sleepy New England town, stirring tensions between the fraternal establishment of Clarendon and those calling for change. As authorities attempt to tamp down “radical elements,” Virginia must decide whether she’s willing to put herself and her family at risk for a cause that had never felt like her own.

My thoughts

It’s almost hard to believe this is a debut novel—Crow’s writing is strong and her characters are very well drawn. The book is told from three main perspectives: Virginia, who is suddenly widowed at the beginning of the story; her 13-year-old daughter Rebecca, who loses her father right at the confusing time of adolescence; and college student Sam, who was a student of Virginia’s husband and is dealing with his own confused feelings after the death. I thought it was an interesting choice to have a male perspective in a book primarily about women, but it definitely works.

The Wrong Kind of Woman is set in New England in the 1970s, against the backdrop of The Vietnam War and the continued struggle for equal rights. Virginia has lived mainly in the shadow of her husband, but when she finds herself a widow and single mother, she has to decide between doing what she wants with her life or continuing to try to fit into the gender roles expected of her. Rebecca and Sam have their own confusion and rebelliousness to work through, and the lives of these characters keep intersecting in interesting ways.

Virginia’s story resonated with me the most, but I loved all three perspectives. This is a quiet, slow-building story that doesn’t race to any dramatic conclusions, but rather feels more organic and human in the way things unfold. With anti-war, feminist, and LGBT themes all happening at a male-only college in the 70s, there’s plenty to think about without a lot of action. A well-written, thought-provoking look at a volatile time in American history.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for my copy in exchange for this honest review.

Review: Shit, Actually by Lindy West

I started and finished this book the same day, but then needed another day to decide how to review it.

What it’s about

From the Goodreads description:

New York Times opinion writer and bestselling author Lindy West was once the in-house movie critic for Seattle’s alternative newsweekly The Stranger, where she covered film with brutal honesty and giddy irreverence. In Shit, Actually, Lindy West returns to those roots, re-examining beloved and iconic movies from the past 40 years with an eye toward the big questions of our time: Is Twilight the horniest movie in history? Why do the zebras in The Lion King trust Mufasa–who is a lion–to look out for their best interests? Why did anyone bother making any more movies after The Fugitiveachieved perfection? And, my god, why don’t any of the women in Love, Actually ever fucking talk?!

From Forrest Gump, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and Bad Boys II, to Face/Off, Top Gun, and The Notebook, West combines her razor-sharp wit and trademark humor with a genuine adoration for nostalgic trash to shed new critical light on some of our defining cultural touchstones–the stories we’ve long been telling ourselves about who we are.

My thoughts

I adore Lindy West. Shrill and The Witches Are Coming are two of my favorite nonfiction/memoirish/essay books ever. I also adore movies, especially the ‘old’ ones I loved years and years ago. So naturally, this was going to be a great read for me, right? Yes, but also no.

Yes, because I’ve actually seen every one of the movies West reviews in this book, with the possible exception of American Pie because I honestly don’t think I was ever able to watch the whole thing. (Apparently, there are actually movies that are too immature for me. Weird!) I enjoyed her takes on all of the films—I laughed out loud more than a few times, and was helped to realize some stuff about several of them I hadn’t stopped to consider before; primarily, the problematic ickiness that ensues when movies are written ‘for women’ by men, most clearly illustrated in West’s reviews of Love, Actually and The Notebook.

Yes again, because Lindy West is a a fantastic writer and downright hilarious. She’s smart and witty, and she’s not afraid to keep talking until you realize that. I don’t know how she picked the movies to review, or why The Fugitive is the best movie ever and the one to which all other films are compared, but I had no trouble at all getting on board with this system. I love when she fangirls about some of movies, and equally love the merciless evisceration of some of them. Shit, Actually was a perfect book for me to read right now, in the midst of election fatigue/anxiety, because it’s light and funny while also just thought-provoking enough.

No (and it’s just a little no), because the book gets a bit repetitive… after all, West just gives us a scene-by-scene summary of a bunch of films with hilarious commentary thrown in for each . Shit, Actually is not a long book, but still, it probably could have done without a few of these movies. Perhaps starting with a American Pie.

No also, because despite my being older and more enlightened, it is possible to go too far with me. I will accept that Love, Actually is actually quite a sexist shitshow (still gonna watch it this holiday season, as always), and I can admit that Forrest Gump was beyond ridiculous, and I can definitely see that Maverick was the bad guy to Iceman’s good guy, but damn it, Lindy West: you leave Titanic alone! 😅

⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2, or 7/10 DVDs of The Fugitive

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for my copy in exchange for this honest review.