Thursday, March 4, 2010


Any good drama or tragedy is like a ball of yarn, made up of so many strands piled upon one another. You should be able to unwind the ball, to see every bit, right down to the start.

Commencement is a lovely novel with both highs and lows. A story which is slightly more risque, rebellious, and serious than books like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants but fans of that series will surely adore this debut novel.

The story switches back and forth between four friends who had met on their first day of college at Smith in Massachusetts and have remained friends ever since. College is well known as a period of time where an individual grows and changes (I, for one, completely agree with this. I changed most when I was in college) and these changes do not avoid the four Smithies.

Starting off as freshman there is Celia, April, Sally, and Bree. One girl is engaged, all four are straight, one is a vegan feminist. By the end of the novel someone is married (not the one formerly engaged), one of the girls is a lesbian, and the vegan feminist is now more of an extremist.

The story displays the strains of friendships as distance is put in place. The girls have a sisterhood of sorts where they are always there for one another and free to give a true opinion. Some people might crave a friendship like this, others might already have such a thing. The book not only speaks of this friendship but also the powerful bond of womanhood in general with many facts on feminism and genocide in the world.

J. Courtney Sullivan covers a list of topics that sadly affect many women. Cheating significant others, rape, childhood molestation, and being rejected from ones family. But it's not all sad things. There are also the experiences of first love, discovering ones self, marrying, having a child, and the utter bond one can form with someone who isn't even biologically related to you.

I feel that Sullivan could have gotten more in debth to the negative issues because these female characters are strong and they make it through each situation that is handed to them. But maybe it just wasn't that type of book. Maybe it was specifically meant to focus on the joys of sisterhood which I feel was felt through out the entire novel.

I read the book quickly and truly enjoyed it. Part of me might have enjoyed it so much because so many of the stories and situations in the book I could relate to. Either I had myself experienced them or I had friends who had. Either way, it was incredibly easy to place myself into the shoes of the characters in the book.

I feel that any woman who goes to a liberal arts college and has an open mind, willing to love those all around them- especially themselves and other women, but the reader has to be willing to love those whose love might not be typically conventional (IE: lesbians, lots of lesbians are in this book and I am 100% cool with that). It's the perfect liberal arts book for the sentimental sort who are in college, looking into college, or have just graduated.


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