Born during the Depression, Sukie, Diana, Elaine, and Joanne grew up in the 1950’s and were among the leaders of the social movements of the 1960’s. Now, twenty years later, they face even more changes in their lives: divorce, aging, compromised ideals, and death.
Diana, the narrator, learns of the unexpected death of one of her best friends, Sukie. She travels to Washington, D.C., for the funeral and there meets several old friends, as well as Sukie’s former husband, Max, and her lover, Jeff. This rather disparate group is joined in sorrow over the loss of the one person who really bound them together. With the exception of Jeff, they all have shared major life experiences--marriages, births, and divorces. Sukie’s death, the first in the group, prompts her three female friends to reflect upon their lives. This process is strengthened by the discovery of Sukie’s journal, in which she has recorded her self-doubts and pain after the breakup of her marriage and her struggle to find or redefine herself. Through these shared self-examinations, the women realize that they are true survivors, that their lives have had meaning, and that there will be more changes for them and other women in the future. Above all, they realize that for all their insecurities, they are strong enough to bear any burden, but that friendship helps by sharing the weight.
Barbara Raskin’s “hot flashes,” or feminist insights, often ring true. This is especially apparent when she is talking about universal experiences such as friendship, love, aging, and death. Conversely, it is more difficult to identify with the famous names that Raskin drops throughout the book, which will distance many readers from the emotions evoked. Overall, however, Raskin does provide insights into a turbulent generation.