Norma Klein Margaret Burns Ferrari - Essay

Margaret Burns Ferrari

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

I read Norma Klein's story for adolescents, Mom, the Wolf Man and Me, with delight, and so I was anxious to read and review her new novel, Girls Turn Wives. I was disappointed. The freshness she brought to a story about a girl, her divorced mother and her mother's new boyfriend, has deteriorated into empty trendiness in Girls Turn Wives. In telling the story of two 37-year-old Barnard alumnae who are still friends, one a lean, frigid, career-oriented intellectual and the other a frumpy, unaccomplished but happy mother of three, Klein uses every cliché imaginable and almost no irony at all.

Right now, there is so much fiction and drama about women discovering themselves that the subject is becoming trite…. Without fresh insights, there is little to recommend another novel on the theme, and Norma Klein does not bring any.

Her writing leaves out the real complexities of living…. Problems are easily solved, death is quickly sidestepped, affairs are gracefully ended with no one hurt, husbands and wives are charmingly reunited after separations, no one is lonely for long and kids say the cutest things. Klein writes like a Walt Disney staff writer, which is irritating in a novel that clearly wishes to represent social reality….

What is most annoying about Klein's book is that it might have been quite good. Instead, it suffers from the superficiality of Judith Rossner's Looking for Mr. Goodbar, without achieving that novel's sheen…. The book has its moments, but … it will only seem emotionally satisfying to addicts of happy endings.

Margaret Burns Ferrari, in a review of "Girls Turn Wives," in America, Vol. 135, No. 1, July 10, 1976, p. 18.