Kelly Strom | Great book covers many important life lessons

Kelly Strom | Great book covers many important life lessons

Starting off with a compelling story of Greer Kadetsky, the only child of former hippies, "The Female Persuasion" by Meg Wolitzer has a lot more to say than the story of Greer's upbringing and march to adulthood.

Brilliant and making a strong impression on her teachers, Greer was a shining star at school. When new boy Cory moves in across the street and proves to be equally precocious, their bond is formed. Thought of as the "twin rockets" headed for great things, Cory and Greer become inseparable in high school and apply to Ivy League colleges. When both of them are accepted to Princeton, it seems their dreams have come true.

Of course, there is a glitch. Greer's hippie parents are oddly detached from their daughter's life and seem incredibly uninterested in her plans.

When her father is charged with filling out the FAFSA loan applications, he grows frustrated with all of the questions and sends it in uncompleted.

Because of this, Greer's financial award is minimal. Understandably, she is outraged and horrified that she must now attend her "fall back" school, the local liberal-arts college, Ryland. Cory then changes his plans and accepts admittance to Yale and plans to visit Greer regularly.

Feeling despondent when school starts without Cory at her side, Greer sits alone on a Friday night in the student lounge bemoaning her life. Cory makes her promise to go out and be social, to try to meet new people.

When a fellow sulking student strikes up a conversation, they decide to check out some parties in the area. While at a frat house, Greer is abruptly groped and verbally assaulted by another student.

When she discovers that he is a serial harasser, she and her new friend, Zee, are inspired to stand up for themselves and draw attention to the issue on campus.

Their actions largely fail. Zee encourages Greer to attend a speech given by Faith Frank, a nationally recognized feminist icon who is coming to town for a presentation. While in the audience, Greer is taken over by admiration for this strong woman.

After the talk, in the restroom, Greer is able to engage in conversation with Faith Frank about the circumstances involving her harassment on campus.

With slow and careful wording, Faith encourages Greer to do what is right and to never give up on what she believes in.

Greer walks away with Faith's business card in hand and a newly invigorated zeal for community service and empowerment.

After graduation, Cory reluctantly heads to southeast Asia to embark on his career in finance, and Greer is at loose ends.

Eventually, Greer contacts Faith Frank and scores an interview with her feminist magazine. When the print publication falls flat, Greer is invited to participate in Faith's new venture — a foundation to empower women around the world.

Greer relishes her new role and is eager to spread her wings and take on new responsibilities.

Meanwhile, Cory is bored with his position and is anxious to hear news from home. When tragedy strikes Cory's family, he flies back to New York and begins again, taking care of his family.

This is the main gist of the plot development in "The Female Persuasion," but it is certainly not the sole storyline. Interwoven within the story are numerous treatises on themes such as friendship, ambition, mentorship and feminism.

Questions asked concern the differences between male and female — are they really that separate and is that a good thing or bad? Can a woman be soft and strong?

During one chapter, Greer and her co-workers are dining at the country home of Faith Frank and Greer cuts her thumb while cutting vegetables.

Faith comes to her assistance, carefully bandaging the wound, as Greer understands the coexistence of power and kindness.

"When women got into positions of power, they calibrated and recalibrated tenderness and strength, modulating and correcting."

The entire book is composed of life lessons and various stages of comprehension of human nature. Wolitzer spends a great deal of time thoughtfully debating the issues of coercion, preferential treatment and feminism on many levels.

In another of Wolit-zer's novels, she addresses the frustration of empowerment and states, "Don't think you can get their attention. There's a conspiracy to keep the women's voices hushed and tiny and the men's voices loud."

In fact, Wolitzer had written an essay in The New York Times Book Review recently, commenting that literary fiction by males is read much more widely than the same genre written by women. She mentions the popular novel "The Marriage Plot" by Jeffrey Eugenides and questioned whether it would have reached the same statistics and accolades if it had been written by a woman. Would it have been relegated to the "women's fiction" genre, one in which men rarely sample?

Statements such as these are littered throughout "The Female Persuasion," and although I enjoyed the story amongst the principal players, the final volume felt like a series of essays — important — definitely — but almost too heavy with significance.

If you enjoy extremely well-written literary fiction, engaging characters, and important cultural storylines, then this is definitely the book you have been waiting for. If you're looking for a beach read, you may want to select something else this time.

By the way, this book has been optioned with film rights. It is rumored that Nicole Kidman would play Faith Frank.

Kelly Strom is the collection manager at the Champaign Public Library. She orders books, ebooks, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and CDs.

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