Title: The Four Ms. Bradwells
Author: Meg Waite Clayton
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Mia, Betts, Laney, and Ginger have been best friends ever since their first day of law school. Nicknamed the “Ms. Bradwells” after the court case that they studied which brought them together, they have remained close over the years. Now, Betts is a nominee for Supreme Court Justice, and of course, the other three Ms. Bradwells are there to support her at her nomination hearings. But after an unexpected question at the hearing threatens to drag out a long buried secret that the four women have kept for years, they retreat to Ginger’s family home on Cook Island, a small island off the coast of Maryland. There, they hide from reporters and reconnect, eventually realizing that the past can’t stay hidden forever.
I really enjoyed Meg Waite Clayton’s The Wednesday Sisters, so I was eagerly anticipating her latest novel. Clayton has an exceptional ability to get to the heart of women’s friendships and to truthfully depict the complexity therein. I was pleased that The Four Ms. Bradwells boasted wonderful friendships, but also engaging main characters that I really sympathized with.
Women’s friendships are hard things to write. They are so complex, so maddening and ugly and beautiful and deep, it’s difficult to really grasp their true nature. And if an author actually manages to do that, to really show all the layers of friendship between women, it’s hard to make it look real and true, rather than some sort of superficial competition. The fact is, women can be very difficult, especially smart, successful women, which all four of the Ms. Bradwells are. Yet Clayton somehow not only takes these complicated friendships with their insane amounts of baggage and write them compellingly, she makes the reader feel the true love each of these women feels for her three friends. It’s an incredible feat, and I admire her for being able to do it.
My favorite character of the four was Mia, but that’s because the book started out in her voice. I fell into her so naturally that when the voice changed, and Betts, Ginger, or Laney were narrating, I wanted to get back to Mia. That’s not to say she was the easiest to like - each of these women are written honestly. They all have strengths and weaknesses, and Clayton doesn’t hide from their faults. But even when difficult aspects of their natures are revealed, I never found myself disliking any of them. Ginger was the hardest of the four for me to relate to, but I cared about her just as much as I cared about Mia.
I also loved how intelligent these women were. All four were law school graduates, and they all felt it was important to keep their minds active and engaged. At one point, Clayton takes us through a game of Scrabble with the Ms. Bradwells. It may sound tedious, but instead, I was riveted. I loved watching these smart, successful women enjoy playing a board game. Too often, education is looked down upon and seen as a bad thing. Laney, Mia, Betts, and Ginger celebrated their intelligence and didn’t care who watched them - it was a wonderful thing to witness.
I could say a lot more about The Four Ms. Bradwells, but instead I’ll stop here. This is a wonderful work of women’s fiction, from the characters, to the friendships, to the serious issues facing women that are tackled in the book. This would make an excellent book club pick, as there are a lot of different aspects of the novel to discuss. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read The Four Ms. Bradwells and I can’t wait to see what Meg Waite Clayton comes up with next.