Meredith White's Reviews > The Necklace: Thirteen Women and the Experiment That Transformed Their Lives

The Necklace by Cheryl Jarvis
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's review
Sep 19, 2011

really liked it
Read on September 30, 2011

The basic focus of the story is on 13 different women with differing lives, socioeconomic status, political affiliations and beliefs who pooled together to purchase a $37,000 diamond necklace, but who ended up changing their own lives instead. Fueled by the vision and inspiration of Jonell McLain, these women created not only a revolutionary idea but even more importantly a sisterhood and support group. Throughout the book, it was amazing to me to see how much women need women in order to maintain, sustain and grow. Ludicrous as it sounds, these women invested in a shared necklace, that would become a means by which to change the lives of others, and ultimately start of revolution against consumerism and in support of sharing and growing collaboration. Despite setbacks, which inevitably occur among women especially of differing opinions, these women were able to move beyond themselves and change into a growing force. Naming the jewelry 'Jewelia' after a revolutionary in her own right, Julia Child, the diamond necklace took on a personality (a soul as described in the book) itself. The women comment on taking 'Jewelia' skydiving or to Paris, to meet other people and be enjoyed by others. In a sense, I think the soul of 'Jewelia' was the combination of the thirteen women, their spouses, their friends and family. How interesting would it be to create one persona from so many different people.

In addition, the cumulative concept that I felt from all the women while reading this book was that this is a piece of extravagance, and I can assume that if only one woman had owned it, the jewelry would never leave its box, except on the very rare, special occasion. These women, instead, wore it to Dr.'s appointments, on vacations, to the coffee-shop and shared it as the 'something borrowed' in their daughter's and friend's weddings. Most women would never be able to afford something so valuable, but because of these women, they were able to appreciate it for a simple moment, and sometimes, let's be honest, that is enough. I would admit that my own greed sometimes would say 'I want it for myself, and I would wear it always' but when I take a realistic look, I would understand that I wouldn't use it as often as I would say I would. In essence, the novelty (and unfortunately the value) would wear off. What was represented in this book is that there is as much satisfaction (if not more) in sharing the novelty with others.

Since each chapter was devoted to a different woman, her personality, and the difference that 'Jewelia' made in her life, I want to focus what I learned specifically from them, because I believe that you can learn simply from the lives of other people.

*Jonell McLain: As the initiator, Jonell displayed strong points of leadership, vision, collaboration and persuasiveness. What a creative mind to consider involving women in what appeared to be such a risky endeavor. I think, simply stated, that that was what I learned most about Jonell - you must put yourself out there, and be willing to involve other people in order to make lasting change. There may be bumps in the road, but in the end, the success far outweighs to cost.

*Patti Channer: The thing that I loved about Patti was her ability to show that life in itself is a special occasion. 'Jewelia's' greatest impact on Patti was to show her own flaws in consumerism and instant gratification. Her generous heart showed through when she was willing to take the things that she had accumulated and share them with others - and get a greater joy and exuberance from giving rather than receiving. How can I, too, share what I have rather than constant accumulation? And really, when is enough, ENOUGH?

*Priscilla Van Gundy: Each woman gave a bit of herself that I could relate to - in particular with Priscilla Van Gundy, it was her feelings of not being good enough, and thus burying herself in work and ultimately unhappiness. The women of 'Jewelia' gave her a place to belong, contribute and ultimately feel the worth of simply being herself. A woman of limited resources as a child, her work ethic and sense of family loyalty encouraged me that I, too, can someday make a huge impact and difference simply by being myself.

*Dale Muegenburg: The point that took away from Dale was how 'Jewelia' simply enhanced her own personal journey. Living a life that was already a terrific journey, it was 'Jewelia' that helped her to take a step back and appreciate the little things, almost through the eyes of another person.

*Maggie Hood: Maggie was in the middle of 'remaking her life', a place where I currently find myself as well. A woman who had experienced loss, change, and new beginnings throughout her life, she showed her commitment to self as well as the necessity of removing the negative from one's own life. Her adventurous spirit and hard work spoke volumes to me, and showed me that as I stay true to myself and limit the negativity in my life, two very active necessities, my world will become just as it should be, despite the changes.

*Tina Osborne: Two concepts that I learned from Tina Osborne, a school teacher, were first to never take work home (have a life outside of your occupation) and second to not become bitter by your circumstance, but rather take care of yourself and of others. I find that I have neglected all three - work became an extension of my life, I was bitter and hard as a result, and my body, spirit, mind and soul have been neglected. I am in a place now that I look forward to changing this immediately about myself and working toward a boundaries and a fulfilled, engaged life.

*Mary Osborn: Mary may have been my favorite in the cluster of women - a handgun, biker Republican, she lived life to the fullest and gave everything possible to improving herself and enjoying life. What I walked away from with Mary was her point about how much more important it is to model to your children what you hope they will do, rather than limiting simply to the words you tell them. It is easy for parents to say 'do-this, do-that' but the power is in the example. It made me consider what has and hasn't been modeled for me, and what I in turn want to change in order to model for my children.

*Mary Karrh: The first thing about Mary Karrh that I immediately related to was how typically her thoughts and suggestions would usually go unheard in a group setting until someone else voiced them later. Countless times my ideas were met with disapproval, only to be related by someone else and accepted, at times even praised. I learned from those experiences to not attach my self-worth too tightly to my ideas, but rather to focus on the end result other than the means. Also, Mary, a breast cancer survivor, spoke about money and retirement, the necessity to continue working if it is what you love, and that there is so little time so why be selfish.

*Nancy Huff: A fireball of energy, Nancy Huff's example to me of her love for her dad is what struck me the most. (In a sense, she reminds me of Heather Montecinos!) She spoke of how compassion over hardball makes more friends and helps the world to be a better working place, more civil perhaps. For Nancy, it was natural to reach out and connect with others - what is natural for me? And what am I trying to make natural that just might not be so? Is it worth the effort, if not for me, for others? Also, she speaks to the concept of community, and even more so lost community. What is my current community and why? Is it a community that will last? What about the necklace - Nancy focused on how the necklace made her feel and those with whom she decided to share it. Not only was it a conversation piece, but it also brought people together and established a not-so-likely common ground.

*Dr. Roz Warner: I would say that Dr. Roz Warner inspired me the most. As a single mom, she went back to medical school when she was 32, and today holds her own practice with her current husband. To me, she embodies not only persistence and hard work, but resilience. I am in a place now that I must bounce back, and in a sense I am not at all being resilient. But, it was her ability to bounce back that helped her to get her foot in the door, and kept her from proclaiming defeat before she even got started. There is hope for me yet! A difference that I noted with Dr. Roz is that she said she was a doer over a dreamer. I am an obvious opposite, and while my dreams are phenomenal, they remain such without action. My hope is to put one foot in front of the other and become as much a doer as I am a dreamer. The necklace for her became a catalyst for sisterhood - these women paid $1,200 to be a part of something bigger than themselves... similar to sorority for me in college. Loved this woman - I so appreciate her example and model for others like me who are getting started on their callings a tad bit later than others.

*Jone Pence: Jone's story is one of atypical women - married, divorced, no children and happily single. She stated that there are three major crises in your life: losing your job, losing your home and losing your marriage, which she experienced all at the same time. But, in the end she realized that her own journey would be different from other women - she wasn't remarried and she didn't have children, but she did have a home that she loved and had designed herself and a career that brought her fulfillment. Perhaps that will be me - maybe my life will be career over family; however, my heart has a specific yearning for the latter, so we'll see. Nevertheless, it shows me that you can find fulfillment in either, or even both.

*Mary O'Connor: Mary's focus on passing the concept of sisterhood and community on to the next generation is what stood out to me most. Who can I impact and invest my time in as we jump into the future, who can I guide and direct? I've already realized that I love mentoring, but I have also realized too that I have a tendency to overwhelm myself rather than investing. I think that as I move to the next step in my life, I am hoping to determine my path and then who I can invest in. For now, the investment must be in myself; however, the sooner I get that underway, then I can share it with others.

*Roz McGrath: The second Roz, a feminist, finishes the story with a challenge to the women of the group to consider what woman they admire and why. As a woman myself, I do not often reflect on the women who have gone before, sacrificed and given of themselves willingly so that I might have a better life and so that we might have a better world. It is difficult to not take advantage of such sacrifice and think that life has always been 'like this'; however, the reflection of fortitude, persistence and tenacity of others, I believe will help me to further the legacy, for what can I do TODAY that will impact the TOMORROW of others? Am I doing anything for the future women of America and of the world?

At the conclusion, it is apparent that the woman have realized that this was a once in a lifetime experience - for one daughter, she states that while it was only a necklace, it was the gift of experience given by her parents that by far the most valuable. When I consider a diamond necklace, my thoughts automatically go to my own selfishness, greed and even an air of importance if I were to own something like 'that'. If I were to have that, the attention I would receive would be overwhelming and could feed into my own insecurities; however, I wonder how I would respond if it were a shared experience. I suppose I'll have to buy a diamond necklace with a few friends to find out. :]

“In the end, a diamond necklace did make a statement, not about wealth and status, but about the needs that cross cultures and link generations, the connections that transcend time and place. There may be no escaping our material culture, but thirteen women in Ventura, California, showed that we can reframe it on our terms.”
~The Necklace

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