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Small Changes Two unforgettable women see their lives change in unimaginable ways in this captivating novel spanning the explosion of feminism in the 1960s   Growing up Beth always dreamed of her wedding day But a few months into her marriage to Jim whose affection she once clung to desperately she realizes she didn’t anticipate life beyond the altar Jim spends his nights out drinking with his buddies and criticizes every meal Beth cooks and the only solution her family suggests is to have a baby—which she knows would trap her in this miserable life forever So she takes matters into her own hands and flees to Boston There she meets Miriam an ambitious computer science PhD candidate who nonetheless gives up her career for an unfulfilling marriage   Alongside a cast of intellectuals budding feminists and political activists Beth and Miriam find themselves rapidly evolving as they are swept up in the tumultuous social upheaval of the sixties Experimenting with relationships and sexuality and taking a stand for women’s rights and against the Vietnam War they learn to trust their instincts and lean on each other Small Changes is a glimmering example of bestselling author Marge Piercy’s knack for capturing the authentic struggles and desires of contemporary women with clarity and compassion    

10 thoughts on “Small Changes

  1. says:

    Oct 5 Review tomorrowOct 6 2018 This book tells the story of two women who are trying to figure out who they are meant to be as we all must do at some point They have pressures from themselves their parents the men in their lives the government and society itself These pressures tend to force both women into the standard Ideal Female But whose Ideal? And why does a strong woman who is unafraid to be different frighten those who create that Ideal?How do our two main characters respond to all of this? Each in a different way and yet I could identify with both Beth and Miriam I think that is what Piercy intended since she dedicated the book this way For me For you For us Even for them The sadly astonishing fact that I picked up on while reading especially with the SCOTUS controversy swirling and a confirmation vote taking place even as I type is that so very little has really changed for women since 1972 when this book was first published and now The Powers That Be want to push us all back into that tiny 'ideal' space where they think we belongNo No No Read this book Witness the lives of these women and their friends And be brave enough to live your own life wherever it may lead and whoever may object

  2. says:

    This title was originally published in 1973 during the second wave of feminism that followed the US Civil Rights movement and then the anti war movement against the US invasion of Vietnam Marge Piercy is a prominent veteran writer who spoke to women’s issues during that time and in years to follow She doesn’t need my review and neither does Open Road Integrated Media I suspect but my thanks go to them and Net Galley for letting me reread this wonderful novel digitally I received this copy free in exchange for an honest review but the reader should also know that I came to this galley with a strong strong affinity for Piercy’s work already and my bookshelves are lined with paperbacks and hard cover copies of her books But they are thick and sometimes heavy to the arthritic hand and it’s a joy to be able to read them on a slender electronic readerIn 1973 many young adults had cast off the fetters of the impossibly repressive social relations of the 1950’s and early 1960’s Their parents on the other hand were freuently entrenched in the s that had been with them all of their lives and felt threatened by the new ideas—some of which were actually pretty stupid—that many Boomer era teens and twenty somethings embraced Some notions that were new then are ones most of us now take for granted Most of western civilization is no longer troubled for example by the idea that a woman may want to have a career and that some women don’t want to have children Most parents no longer speak of marrying a daughter as a way to transfer the expense of feeding and sustaining her from themselves to a man But in 1973 these social s were still really prevalent So to readers younger than fifty or perhaps younger than forty some of Piercy’s text is going to appear to be over the top a vast exaggeration It isn’t And I have to thank Piercy for the gift of her insights which came to me while I was a young woman still determining what was and was not acceptable in my own relationshipsThe sly way Piercy makes her most prominent point is in following the lives of women two in particular Beth who at the story’s outset is indeed being “married off” and Miriam the least favored child of the family who goes away to school and moves into a series of unconventional relationships There’s a lot of the cultural flavor of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s here and Piercy uses her narrative to describe ways in which even the most enlightened women those seeking to build bonds with other women and support them as they set out to fulfill their dreams nevertheless find themselves mired in uneual sometimes physically and emotionally abusive relationships Women that believe they have liberated themselves by refusing to marry or by joining a commune and not being monogamous nevertheless find themselves trapped in destructive situations Piercy shows us how every woman in her story can see that a good friend is in a bad place; each woman doubts herself first when she starts to reconsider her own entanglements It is interesting in hindsight that communal and non monogamous relationships could be discussed freely but lesbianism was still so far out on the periphery that not even the most trusted of straight friends were necessarily going to be in on the nature of the coupling And this is dead accurate given the time period; I was there And gay sex among men was a mental cobweb to be brushed away Tran sexuality was still considered a sign of mental illness by nearly everyone and it isn’t in this bookBecause it deals with relationships and the internal narratives primarily of women with occasional side trips into the heads of the men both women encounter and also of other women Beth and Miriam are close to this novel is likely to be labeled “Chick Lit” a genre title I have become increasingly reluctant to use Think of it this way how many women have read novels that are entirely about men or one man and considered what they just read to be relevant and at times superior literature? And now I have to wonder why when a book is almost entirely about women or a woman told from a feminine perspective it is assumed by so many people that men should not be interested in that literature also?Note that this tome exceeds 500 pages The text itself should be accessible to anyone with a high school diploma or euivalency but not everyone has sufficient stamina to make it through a book of this length However if one is on the borderline and especially if one is a woman interested in evaluating the nature of our most important relationships this would be a fine place to begin reading longer booksFor those that enjoy reading about this time period and for those interested in modern feminism as well as the history of American feminist thought Piercy’s body of work including this title should be unmissable Her towering feminist presence was a beacon to so many of us and many of the issues that were so urgent then are still urgent now

  3. says:

    Almost ten years ago I discovered the author Marge Piercy when I read her novel He She and It As I do with any author whose book I really really love I ran right out and bought every other book of hers I could get my hands on including Small Changes which the cover blurb promised showcased two women and the changes they make in their lives First Comes Love Then Comes Marriage The first character we meet is Beth a recent high school student who is apparently getting married to her boyfriend Jim fresh out of high school Beth had been studious and a good student but her parents either didn't have the money for college or as the book insinuates didn't see the point of sending a girl to college as she mentions that her wedding would have paid for two years of school The novel is told from a third person omniscient perspective and Beth is shown to be very disconnected from the events surrounding her on her wedding day an almost unwilling participant Small Changes having been written in the midst of the feminist movement of course Beth soon finds herself in a dead end job married to a man who forces her into the traditional wife role where she has to cook and clean while Jim sits around and watches her She decides one day that she is desperate for escape and takes as much as she can to work with her then skips out on work and goes to the bank where she forges her husband's signature takes half their money which should legally be hers right? and hies off to Boston Bohemian Rhapsody In Boston Beth begins an affair with a man she meets through her job at MIT She is very disconnected with him as well but seems to fall into the affair and continue it almost for a learning experience Through the man Tom Ryan she meets the other people in his shared apartment Dorine and Lennie who seem to have a decent relationship that started with Dorine posing for Lennie's art; and Jackson an often angry Vietnam veteran who needles Beth mercilessly Beth also befriends Miriam a graduate student at MIT who is working in the relatively new field of computer science who is independent seems to need no man other than on her own terms and bounces back and forth between Jackson and his friend Phil a poet and bartenderWhen Beth ends her relationship with Ryan she is saddened at the loss of the others who surround the apartment until Miriam gets together with Jackson again and gives Beth an in It's at this point that the perspective switches over to Miriam with huge chunks of exposition on her childhood in Flatbush She is raised by an attention demanding musician father and a subservient mother She bucks their expectations that she will get married marriage is referred to as her only prospect by going to college and planning on graduate school She begins an affair with Phil while still in college and ultimately as her father is dying and she is sitting with Phil who is on a bad acid trip has to choose between her family and PhilThis section also includes background information on Phil's childhood and brings Miriam's story up to speed with Beth's Now Begins the Switcheroo Once we've been sufficiently introduced to the two we are assuming are the two main characters Piercy begins to switch back and forth between each of their perspectives as well as introduce countless subplots involving new or barely mentioned characters Beth's husband sends a detective after her who threatens her with jail unless she returns so like a sheep she does Miriam sets up a menage a trois with Phil and Jackson to keep from having to choose between them Beth runs off again this time to California where she falls into what appears to be an almost mentally abusive lesbian relationship Miriam gets a job in a computer lab and works on her thesis Beth returns to find Miriam married And so on and so on and so on Dated Themes While I understand that this book was originally written toward the end of the Vietnam War and smack in the middle of the Women's Movement Piercy sacrifices plot and character development to repeatedly bash her reader over the head with the idea that marriage is BAD Not one marriage in Small Changes is portrayed as a good one from Phil's father's repeated abuse of Phil and his mother to Miriam's eventual loss of self married to her former bossIn case you missed the above point we were originally supposed to become attached to Beth and Miriam Miriam ends up in a big house as a forced stay at home mother while Beth moves from commune to commune living with women joint raising other women's children and ultimately committing herself to another lesbian relationship Beth who has almost no material comforts is happy Miriam who has fiscal security in her marriage is trapped by a husband who has forced her into a stereotyped role with her doctorate buried in a drawer You've Come a Long Way Baby As a child of the 70s I don't remember all that much about the Women's Movement but I do remember communes Small Changes however was re released in 1997 and even at that point it was out of date The plot takes place over my best guess approximately five years but by the end of the book you feel like it's been about 40 years Chapters jump from person to person and one moment to one months in the future with no transition at all leaving you wondering what just happened for about half the book Worst of all I spent nearly 550 pages reading about characters who still had so little depth that I really didn't care about them All I knew after all those words was that marriage is bad and did you know that marriage is bad?I consider myself a product of the feminist movement; I was able to make the decision myself whether to continue with my career not unlike Miriam's in the programming a male dominated field or whether to stay home with my children Feminism is about having a choice and Piercy's perspective in Small Changes is every bit as limiting as what she claims marriage is This review previously published at Epinions

  4. says:

    DNF at 31% Not a bad book by any means but it’s a bit too long for me to get invested

  5. says:

    Set in the 70s against the Women's Lib movement with the Vietnam war uietly in the background mostly around the US East Boston and other parts of Massachusetts this talky realist novel is so good to delve right into the plots spirals out small climaxes rather than a big one it is a female feminist novel after all It revolves around two women Beth small mousy fragile and from a narrow minded family who cannot afford a college degree but can afford a lush wedding for her and her high school sweetheart jerk There is also Miriam a curvy bold studious Jew who soon comes into her own as a woman and goes on to do a PhD We follow their lives which intermingle over many years This is hyper realism you get to know these people well And it is in this way Piercy lays out her consciousness raising fiction As in the book women gather to talk about the way society fails them rather than letting them isolate in their female guilt I was tabbing so many page in this So much of it is Piercy calling out structural bullshit At times this can mean dialogue that seems to just want to make a point I don't think people would talk that way but it's not boring you're nodding your head I didn't mind I grew to love the characters and trust in Piercy's messages I thought in a very subtle way the ending was chilling You see how men can get away with things and how a woman not enlightened to this can fall prey to judging her fellow women As Simone de Beauvoir wrote they have us conuered and divided I love reading about communes this ascetic ideal of life I know little about the political context of this time But I think it falls into an important role of women's fiction that sought to illuminate the trapping we fall into Trapping after trapping I found all these women strong although completely crushedIt's such a 70s book too it has the context so right 70s novels familiar to me through my childhood love of Judy Blume perhaps What's scary is that so much is relevant tab worthy still happening

  6. says:

    Honestly this book depressed me Beth's story turned out okay but Miriam's was frustrating and depressing from start to finish The political message of the author seemed to be important than a satisfying narrative and from that standpoint I understand the choice to have Beth end up happy with a woman while Miriam slowly drowned in her marriage It seems the message is traditional heterosexual relationships are doomed to fail Dorine and Phil work out only in the context of them living in separate rooms in a commune and having a very loose and free relationshipFor a while it seemed as if the message would be that men are incapable of anything but violence and possession but then Phil had his last minute redemption that he honestly didn't earn in the narrative If the author wanted us to believe him worthy of forgiveness she should probably have included another chapter from his POV that showed his growth and remorse As it stands all we had directly from Phil was an awful chapter that he spent sexually assaulting Miriam objectifying women hating our two protagonists for being people with lives of their own and reminiscing about a gang rape he had participated in but not been able to perform at a traumatizing experience mainly because he had not been able to prove his manhood and had almost become a victim himself I guess this was a clumsy attempt to show how toxic masculinity is pushed on working class boys but as a character this renders him pretty much beyond redemption at least not without a significant amount of work and being assured it occurred off screen just doesn't cut itA minor point of frustration but a personal sore point the word bisexual is used once or twice dismissively Wanda and Beth both end up identifying as lesbian despite continuing to have relationships with men as well as each other It frustrates me to once again see the lesbian identity touted as the politically radical one and the bisexual identity discarded immediatelyIn addition to all this the book is as is typical of white feminist literature at the time painfully white None of the characters have any friends of colour except for Wanda's Puerto Rican ex husband who is never really seen Even when they're organizing in radical political groups everyone is white There are unnamed Black women in Wanda's prison part of the tragic backdrop Most unsettling Beth uses blackness as a metaphor for white womanhood in an argument with Jackson in which he complains about passive women It's a power trip and they were Uncle Tomming too crudely for you You go in for uppity ns It gives you sense of having overcomeAll in all this novel is too much a product of its time and too much a clumsy political narrative to be an enjoyable read in this day and age And was it really necessary to include five rape scenes?

  7. says:

    i found this book when i was 16 years old and it along with much of Piercy's early poetry has undeniably had a formative impact on some of the ways i think and feel about relationships gender politics interpersonal relations it couldn't have had that impact if i wasn't already bending that direction but rereading it for maybe the 7th or 8th time 20 years later i can see it very clearly Piercy is problematically second wave in the way she handles gender dynamics i don't think there's a single wholly sympathetic adult male character in this novel but for all of that i adore both Phil and Jackson and identify with big pieces of both Beth and Miriam the book is also insightful thoughtful complex and forgiving even Jackson learns to bend at the end and Phil is utterly transformed as are Beth Miriam and Doreen she perhaps most of all this book is not perfect; Piercy handles her politics like a bulldozer and sometimes it overwhelms the story but it's still one of my absolute favorite books of all time and one from which i have learned a lot and in which i see a lot of the world reflected and shining

  8. says:

    This story is about two women Beth and Miriam Beth is marring her boyfriend from high school He expects her to be the standard stay at home mother while he watches her maintain the house But Beth has other dreams and she ends up running away to find herself We also follow Miriam is a graduate from MIT and bounces around in her relationships She is against the traditional opinion of marriage and makes her way This story follows their different paths in lifeThis story is based in the 70’s when women were starting to reach out from their normal place of the house I really like following along as Beth and Miriam are stretching and stepping out into the non traditional roles that they were expected to be in It was fascinating to follow along both of them as they find themselves in such different paths from where they startedI think this is a good book that shows a little of how women were changing roles in the 70’s I think it’s a great story of no settling for a life of what everyone else expects you to live when you are not happy with it I received Small Changes for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

  9. says:

    Apparently I like Marge Piercy's poetry which I read in college a lot than her prose I read over 500 pages of this 999 novel before giving up There are several interconnected story lines here the first of a bride who gives up on her marriage and no one will blame here who reads it It abruptly changes to one of her Greenwich Village friends housemates an intellectual Jewish woman with a highly dysfunctional family who lets the men in her life walk all over her After hundreds of pages of repeatedly bad relationships I gave up I may check it out of the library again finish it but for now it's just too bleak

  10. says:

    This was a somewhat predictable yet somewhat unpredictable book because none of the women ended up precisely where I thought they would at the end of the story A tale of the poor options offered to women sometimes and the poor choices they sometimes make but with the end result being that given the choices they haveto change things they sometimes choose well and sometimes not What I liked was that this really reflected the unpredicatability of it all very well

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