Magnolia Wednesdays // by Wendy Wax

//published 2010//

Sometimes you end up with books on your shelf that you doubt you are going to enjoy but decide to at least give a chance to, and that’s what happened here.  I figured Magnolia Wednesdays was going to be a dreary novel about women discovering all men are total jerks and then going on to “find themselves.”  Instead, this story had a surprising dose of humor, some very relatable characters, and a story that kept me hooked.  I actually thought this was going to be a 4* read, but the ending fell off a great deal and really annoyed me.

Vivian is a hardcore investigative reporter who has worked very hard to get where she is, and who hasn’t been afraid to knock over people who have gotten in her way.  Some life events occur, and Vivi is forced to accept a job she thinks is ridiculous – she begins “investigating” life in the suburbs, mocking (under a pen name) the everyday life lived there.  Vivi has also been forced to move to the suburbs herself, back home to the south to stay with her widowed sister and the sister’s two teenage children.

I was expecting to really dislike Vivi, but while she did, in fact, do the exact opposite of what I would have done in literally every situation, I still found myself liking her.  She’s a hard worker and very intelligent, and underneath of everything she does care about her family and want to do right by them.  I actually really appreciated her journey of rediscovering a close relationship with her sister, building ties in the community, and bonding with her niece and nephew.  Her articles making fun of the lives of the people around her are definitely mean-spirited, and I felt like she wrestled with her guilt very well.  In my mind, I kept wondering why she couldn’t gradually change the tone of them – the whole idea is she is someone who is living in “foreign” territory – wouldn’t it be natural for her to begin to appreciate the ways of her new community, and to share that aspect with her readers?  But instead she keeps writing very mean, mocking articles even when that’s no longer how she truly feels about the people around her.

One of the big things Vivi finds out early on is that she’s pregnant.  Her boyfriend of several years is also an investigative reporter, but one who works in foreign correspondence and is often out of the country for months on end chasing a story in dangerous, war-torn areas.  Vivi not telling him about their baby genuinely made me angry (I’m always angry when people act like mothers are the only ones who get to make any decisions about unborn babies, as though fathers don’t count until the child is born), but I appreciated that she at least felt like a horrible person about it (AS SHE SHOULD), and that whole story was resolved extremely well.

In the end, things of course blow up in Vivi’s face when her identity as the writer of the mean articles is revealed.  That was to be expected, but what I didn’t expect, and what dropped my enjoyment of this story a literal full star, was the way Vivi’s sister blamed her for EVERYTHING that went wrong.  A bunch of stuff happens all at one time, all of it bad, and somehow Vivian gets the full weight of blame for a big reveal about her sister’s dead husband, another friend’s husband having a heart attack, and one character deciding to postpone her wedding (for good reasons!).  This felt completely unreasonable and instead of me feeling sympathetic towards Vivian’s sister, who truly should have felt betrayed about the articles, I just felt super annoyed with her because she was pouting like a small child because Vivian happened to be standing near her niece when the NIECE put together the pieces and realized the big reveal about her dad/Vivian’s sister’s dead husband.

Still, overall I found this book to be surprisingly readable.  There was a large dose of humor, and the stories of the different women throughout were told well and woven together nicely.  This isn’t a book I’ll read again, but it’s one that I enjoyed as a one-off read, even while it reminded me why I’m not a huge fan of women’s fiction.