With The Women’s Room, first published in 1977, Marilyn French helped bring feminism to the forefront of modern thought and define a generation. The Love Children, her final novel, will be published posthumously, just four months after her death.
The Love Children is the story of Jess Leighton, the daughter of a feminist Harvard professor mother and a volatile father who is occupied with both painting and drinking. Gripping the reader from the first page, French explores both the subtleties and the larger issues that Jess faces as a child along with the rest of her generation during the Vietnam era.
As Jess and her friends speed headlong towards adulthood, French juxtaposes the normal growing pains of teenagers with the challenges their parents face: one jailed for corruption, a father who commits suicide, racial tension and fractured marriages. Upon reaching the cusp of adulthood and leaving for college, old friendships are ruptured while new ones are made. Each faces unique struggles to find satisfaction in a world turned upside down. Feminism is starting to take root, lack of trust for the government is running rampant and sexual mores are being overturned. Throughout the book, Jess explores drugs, alcohol, feminism, anti-war protests, a liberal college and living in a commune, all on the path to self-discovery.
The Love Children brings to life the Vietnam era, highlighting both its darkest moments and its sweetest pinnacles. As Jess and her friends struggle to find and define themselves as adults, to carve out their place in an ever-changing world, readers are sure to be delighted and amazed at the journey they take in their quest to find true happiness. With unflinching honesty, Marilyn French triumphantly captures the tumultuous feelings and agonies of Jess and others of her generation. This is a compelling novel—a true high note with which to end her career—with a lesson for every reader to take away from its pages: that we can make our own happiness despite the tragedies we might face.
Jennifer Becker Landsberger is a writer in Summerville, South Carolina.