It’s the swingin’ 70’s–a time of change, when singers sang about making life better by being there for others. Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” became an anthem for the women’s movement while other songs like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” offered comfort to people. This was a time for spreading peace and love.
In 1973, Wendy, a recently separated woman, discovers a new life when she starts her own business and becomes part of the bar scene. The once conservative Wendy makes major changes to her lifestyle, including her involvement with a number of men.
Wendy’s life becomes complicated with the different men she sees, combined with her estranged husband’s continual reappearance. She turns to drugs to help her relax and escape, creating a downward spiral that only her best friend can save her from.
Wendy’s striving for independence and confidence is uplifting as she pours her love of gardening into her nursery, a place she feels truly happy, and new work as a garden designer. However, much of the story and Wendy’s confidence hinges on her wanting to be seen as desirable to men, and her drive to change herself for this goal—and her pride in achieving it—may fit the ‘70s milieu but also may put off contemporary readers who favor a more thorough examination of self actualization. Wendy also has the relatable bad habit of avoiding her problems, including whether to take Scott back, and ignoring good advice, such as focusing on her nursery, and masking her insecurities in the libertine indulgences of the decade.
Wendy and Cindy’s strong friendship as they support each other through romantic crises and emotional turmoil is heartening, and readers invested in the friendship will miss Cindy during her absences from the narrative. Horn’s attentive to the textures of life, culture, and thinking in the 1970s, and the novel builds to a warm conclusion in which Wendy accepts herself—and looks toward a better future.
Takeaway: A woman's touching reinvention in love and friendship in the swinging 1970s.
Comparable Titles: Jennifer Weiner, Judith Rossner’s Looking for Mr. Goodbar.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-