three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
17-July-Aug-2005
By: 
Meg Wolitzer
user_rating: 
0

A-PositionThe Mellows are a sexually open couple in the mid-1970s who capture their liberation in the graphic sex manual Pleasuring. To the mortification of their four children, the book becomes a bestseller. This comic novel tracks the fallout from the sex manual over the next 30 years, as old, sensitive scars reopen with the now ex-Mrs. Mellow’s determination to publish an anniversary edition. She sends her oldest son, Michael, who struggles with impotency himself, to convince his father to help her update Pleasuring for the 2000s. He and his (three straight and one gay) siblings must come to terms with the impact of this book on their very different lives.
Scribner. 307 pages. $24. ISBN: 074326178X

Philadelphia Inquirer 4 of 5 Stars
"You know families are this funny, you know they are this weird. But never has this realization been such a welcome and entertaining relief." John Freeman

Providence Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"Well regarded for her short fiction … [Wolitzer] hits her keenest pitch in this brilliant skewering and appreciation of the legacies of the sexual revolution. … But it’s the smart, confident prose that makes this a page-turning read."
Beth Taylor

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"One of the many delightful surprises of The Position is that the husbands here are often more soulful and romantic than their wives. Quietly, Wolitzer shatters a lot of stereotypes (the midlife-crisis man with potbelly and sports car), suggesting that birth order has more of an impact on personality than gender." Lisa Zeidner

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"But while savagely witty in spots, there is nothing funny about this book. Rather, in Meg Wolitzer’s hands, The Position is a seething but ultimately accepting portrait of a family."
Julie Wittes Schlack

Houston Chronicle 3 of 5 Stars
"The Position is, in a curious way, a minimanual about love—not the physical positions but the possible connections of the heart. The novel is also funny, very funny." Nora Seton

New York Times 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Clearly, each son and daughter [in this novel] has a burden, and they’re certainly all victims of the once-sexy excesses of the 70s. … Jonathan Franzen made our family discomforts seem fatal with The Corrections, and by comparison Wolitzer’s book is tepid." Choire Sicha

Critical Summary

Reviewers enjoyed the well-drawn characters in Wolitzer’s sixth novel, especially former druggie Holly, depressed Michael, gay Republican Dashiell, and the lost youngest sibling, Claudia. The humor hits the mark, and to many, this book resembled the family dysfunction played to such great effect in Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. Detractors felt that Wolitzer neglected to create the payoff for the complicated situations she so carefully set up, and that the family’s release and forgiveness after their traumas should have been less moralistic. But overall The Position is a fine effort with many memorable moments and questions, including one you may have asked yourself before: "How did children raised in the same family end up so different from one another?"

Also by the Author

The Wife (2003): 4 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2003. Joan Castleman, still attractive at 64, comes to a life-altering decision: she’s going to leave her husband of 40 years. A series of flashbacks narrated by Joan reveals the couple’s history.