Young Jane Young
I picked up Young Jane Young after it was featured as a “Book of the Week” in People magazine. Sorry, folks, but those kinds of things do impress me, if for no other reason than to see what it is about a chosen book that makes it chosen. I was also interested in this particular book because, though I hadn’t read it myself, the author’s previous book, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry , was raved about by many of my friends. Reading Young Jane Young would be my redemption.
Redemption should always be as enjoyable!
I wasn’t sure it would be, at first. The pivotal character is a young woman who has an affair with a married Congressman in whose office she works. Having lived through the Monica Lewinsky scandal, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it again.
But this book is beautifully nuanced and skillfully drawn. The Congressman was actually a friend of the protagonist’s family, and there were few details about the affair itself, other than one pertinent fact that has meaning at the end. So if you’re looking for sleeze, you won’t find it here. Rather, Young Jane Young is a graphic study of gender differences, or perhaps power differences. After the scandal breaks, the Congressman makes his tearful apology and goes back to his work unscathed, while our heroine’s life is ruined. The Congressman knows this will happen. In a poignant moment, just before everything falls apart, he apologizes for putting her through what she will have to go through.
The way she pulls herself up – how she does it, whether she succeeds, what kind of person she becomes – is the heart of the book. Ms. Zevin does a masterful job, mercifully understated and non-melodramatic, of portraying the emotional damage the affair caused and the bravery that resulted. And it isn’t just the voice of the woman involved. We see her mother’s view, her young daughter’s view, even the view of the Congressman’s wife.
With perfect pacing and just enough plot twisting, Young Jane Young humanizes a very difficult situation. I highly recommend it.
BTW, I listened to this book. The reader was wonderful. I give her 5-stars as well.