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December 10, 2022

Well Behaved Wives by Amy Sue Nathan ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

Perfect wives, imperfect lives, and upending the rules of behavior in 1960s America.

"Doing all the right things for a husband and family didn't guarantee happiness."

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book cover of women's fiction novel Well Behaved Wives by Amy Sue Nathan
November 2022; Lake Union; 978-1542025409
audio, ebook, print (319 pages); women's fiction

I'm old enough that I remember what life was like for women in the early 60s.  None of the moms in my neighborhood worked (except for my mom).  Dinner was on the table at exactly 5 and then the man went to read the paper while the wife cleaned up.  Thanks to major cultural changes during the 60s, everything changed and women were encouraged to get an education and to work outside the home.  Well Behaved Wives is set in the middle 60s when things were changing.  The older generation wanted to stick to the old ways while the younger women were anxious for an education and a career.

Ruth is a law school graduate from New York City and studying for the bar exam.  She married well and she and her husband moved in with his parents in an affluent neighborhood in Philadelphia.  Ruth's mother-in-law, Shirley, is old school and more interested in manners and etiquette than in women being educated and getting jobs.  Even though Ruth's new husband has encouraged her in her future plans, he wants to keep her education history a secret from his mother.  When Shirley suggests (or demands) that Ruth goes to etiquette classes, Ruth only goes along with it to keep the peace in the family.  Surprisingly she makes new friends in the group, especially with Carrie.  When secrets are revealed in the group, it begins to appear that life isn't all wonderful.  The author treats the subject of domestic abuse very gently and there are no difficult scenes to get through.  As the women in the group begin to change, they realize that there are more important things in life than good manners, and what really counts are your friends.

I enjoyed this look back at the 60s and it reminded me how in some ways, women have come a long way but negative things like domestic abuse are still an ongoing issue.  I thought the author did a great job of explaining life during this tumultuous decade when everything was changing and reminded us all of the importance of female friendships.

Buy Well Behaved Wives at Amazon

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.  

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