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.
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.