Review: Commencement

Title: Commencement Image

Author: J. Courtney Sullivan

Rating: ★★★★

Provided Synopsis: Assigned to the same dorm their first year at Smith College, Celia, Bree, Sally, and April couldn’t have less in common. Celia, a lapsed Catholic, arrives with her grandmother’s rosary beads in hand and a bottle of vodka in her suitcase; beautiful Bree pines for the fiancé she left behind in Savannah; Sally, pristinely dressed in Lilly Pulitzer, is reeling from the loss of her mother; and April, a radical, redheaded feminist wearing a “Riot: Don’t Diet” T-shirt, wants a room transfer immediately.

Together they experience the ecstatic highs and painful lows of early adulthood: Celia’s trust in men is demolished in one terrible evening, Bree falls in love with someone she could never bring home to her traditional family, Sally seeks solace in her English professor, and April realizes that, for the first time in her life, she has friends she can actually confide in.

When they reunite for Sally’s wedding four years after graduation, their friendships have changed, but they remain fiercely devoted to one another. Schooled in the ideals of feminism, they have to figure out how it applies to their real lives in matters of love, work, family, and sex. For Celia, Bree, and Sally, this means grappling with one-night stands, maiden names, and parental disapproval—along with occasional loneliness and heartbreak. But for April, whose activism has become her life’s work, it means something far more dangerous.

Review: Typically, I am not much of a fan of chick-lit, but the premise of this book reached out to me as a woman that is two years out of university and still in the midst of trying to figure out her life.

Celia, Bree, Sally, and April are a group of friends that met during their first year at Smith College; five years out of school they continue to be the best of friends, yet even they must admit that the strain of the real world provides complications to their friendships, goals, relationships and ideals. Before I began this book I expected to read a bit more about the struggles that these young women would have as they adjusted to the workplace, but instead the book focuses more upon the relationships they have with themselves and others. Being witty, fun, somewhat relatable, and filled with plenty of twists I found that I enjoyed this novel immensely.

One of the most important aspects of the book that I enjoyed was that it does not focus solely upon a single character and their relationship with a man. Sullivan tells the story through the voices of all four women, and all four of them have different relationships with co-workers, significant others, family members, and amongst themselves. The perspective of relationships that was presented was relatable yet felt fresh. Nothing felt overly contrived, much to the appreciation of the reader. All of the women also have some sense of the definition of feminism as was learned from their experiences at Smith College and over the course of their lives. The stance concerning these issues provided another proponent to enhance the perspective of relationships and call upon the reader to consider our role in the world as women.

The only detraction that I can find in this book is the ending of it, which comes off much more like a cliffhanger than a resolution. The reader will never know what becomes of these women in relation to what is unmasked in the final chapter. Will they forgive one another? What will be the repercussions? I so badly want answers to these questions, so what does Sullivan mean by ending the story this way?


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