cover image The Wrong Kind of Woman

The Wrong Kind of Woman

Sarah McCraw Crow. Mira, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7783-1007-5

In her entrancing debut, McCraw Crow traces the impact of second-wave feminism and the antiwar movement in the early 1970s on a New Hampshire college campus. After Virginia Desmarais’s husband, Oliver, dies from a brain aneurysm, she and her high-school-age daughter Rebecca are left to pick up the pieces. Both Virginia and Oliver taught at the elite all-male Clarendon College; after Oliver’s death, Virginia befriends a group of faculty feminists known as the Gang of Four and joins their efforts to bring coeducation and the women’s movement to Clarendon. Theirs isn’t the only movement that roils the seemingly idyllic campus: junior Sam Waxman, enraptured with Elodie, a radical activist, is drawn into planning increasingly violent actions against the Vietnam War, but becomes uneasy when Elodie sets her sights on Clarendon for its alleged “role in the military-industrial complex.” The author considers these events from multiple perspectives, as Virginia works to gain confidence in herself, Rebecca struggles to understand who her mother is becoming, and Sam’s actions at a fraternity party lead Virginia’s neighbors to blame the Gang of Four for the escalating radicalism on campus. The choice to present the characters’ desperate actions in shades of gray makes for engrossing reading. McCraw Crow’s smart and thoughtful story will ring true to those who witnessed the social upheavals of the ’70s. (Oct.)