Poignant and profound, Janice Wood Wetzel’s memoir Sorrows and Songs recounts the author’s decidedly moving life. From a fraught childhood, to a complicated marriage, to a single life as an educated and highly successful career-focused woman, Wetzel’s life-story will both inspire and amaze readers in its fantastic life-story with a humble telling.
Sorrow and Songs begins with Wetzel’s recollections of her childhood and teenage years, and her understatedly complicated relationship with her parents. At varying times loving and physically/mentally abusive, Wetzel alternatively admired, loved, and feared each of her parents. Moving across the country upwards of a dozen times before she was seventeen, the chapters that reflect Wetzel’s childhood, told in honest and straightforward prose, are moving and riveting for their emotional tenor. Of these chapters, perhaps the most moving is the author’s account of her teenage pregnancy, and her parents’ support, and then outrage, at their daughter’s behavior.
The following section recalls Wetzel’s twenty year marriage to her college sweetheart, a partnership that, in the norm of the time, was dominated by Wetzel’s husband. Her failing marriage, along with her parents’ untimely tragic deaths, lead to Wetzel’s depression and her eight week hospitalization for said depression. Her frank recitation of this experience is brave and poignant for its honesty.
After years of suffering, Wetzel made the decision to leave her husband in the early 1970s. She then went back to school, unusual for a woman of 40 at the time, achieving her lifelong goal to be a social worker, and eventually even earning a doctorate.
The remainder of Wetzel’s memoir recalls monumental actions in her life, events that mark her as true feminist and inspiring woman. From her tenure as a college dean to her discussions on her faith, her sexuality, and her difficulties with alcoholism, Wetzel’s life is admirable and inspiring to read. Although occasionally confusing and unclear in its chronology, Sorrows and Songs is ultimately a beautifully rendered memoir that is an ideal read for any lover of motivational stories, and anyone who considers themselves a believer in female equality.