A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions

Feiwel & Friends. Jun. 2021. 352p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250770981.
Gr 9 Up–Set in 1926, this story imagines a world where women wield power without stepping out of their expected roles. The Society works quietly to prepare certain women to be Wives. The Wives compete to marry men likely to become powerful, then influence them to promote women’s interests. The Society has a network of “support women” with traditional labels: Gossips send secret communications through recipes, Spinsters (queer women who won’t marry men) provide security, and Mothers raise good boys who will become influential men. This interesting premise is undermined by confusing plot points. The culture in this version of 1926 is still repressive but somehow contains contemporary ideals. For example, the Society looks for positive feelings regarding racial inclusiveness and equality in the men they target. It’s hard to understand why, especially when one Wife believes, unapologetically, that their work likely upholds racial inequity. A woman wanting to create a menstrual product delivery service is reminded that not all women have periods and not all people who have periods are women; it’s unclear how this particular society could ever come to this conclusion. Additionally, despite claiming to desire independence from men, one woman repeatedly undermines her competitors, trying to become the winning Wife. These things muddle a potentially powerful story. Apart from several diverse secondary characters, most characters are white.
VERDICT Narrative inconsistencies distract from what could be an interesting exploration of women making change despite having few tools.

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