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Surrender, Dorothy

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  737 ratings  ·  86 reviews
From the New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer, a “devastatingly on target” (Elle) novel about a young woman's accidental death and its effect on her family and friends.

For years, Sara Swerdlow was transported by an unfettered sense of immortality. Floating along on loving friendships and the adoration of her mother, Natalie, Sara's notion of death was entirely al
Paperback, 240 pages
Published July 1st 2000 by Scribner (first published April 2nd 1999)
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Jun 22, 2008 rated it did not like it
I would like to rename this book: Who Cares? The book revolves around the untimely death of a woman whose charm is lost on me (not just charm, she is depicted as somewhat God like, let's ignore the fact that she had an affair with her best friend's husband, she is still angelic and beautiful and all things good) and whose friends and mother mourn her miserably in some ugly summer house. Yeeha. I like depressing but this wasn't even enjoyable - it was just boring. I didn't care that she died, I d ...more
May 23, 2011 rated it liked it
This is an interesting story about a mother's and group of friends' reactions to a girl's sudden death. The character development is good, but the plot is weak. The entire time you are reading this book, you feel as if you're going to go somewhere, but you never do. It's almost as if you are experiencing a tension the entire time you are reading. Perhaps this is Wolitzer's goal. Her characters and story in this novel actually made me uncomfortable. One could say that this, in itself, is an art f ...more
May 26, 2008 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Because I had read a couple of tepid reviews of this book, I didn’t expect to enjoy it very much. To my great surprise, I found it deeply moving, delicately written, psychologically perceptive, and wickedly witty in the way it characterizes the failings (both real and imagined) of the characters. It’s the story of a young woman who dies suddenly in an accident and how her mother and a group of friends who shared a summer home with her come to terms with their loss. “Surrender, Dorothy” rings ver ...more
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not the best of early Wolitzer. The story takes place in a slightly dingy house on Long Island in August. Lovely Sara has just died and for want of a better idea, her mother Natalie joins Sara's best friends in their holiday rental. Natalie is vaguely jealous of Adam, the shy gay playwright who was Sara's closest friend, but throws herself into mothering all the residents of the house, including Adam's boyfriend Shawn, an aspiring artist with a lot more ambition than talent. Natalie helps Maddy ...more
May 03, 2008 rated it liked it
This was a difficult book to read as a thirty-something, especially as a childless thirty-something who'd recently lost her mother.

I've always felt that "friends are the family we choose for ourselves" and have had close circles of friends. We all want to believe that we've made a significant enough impact on people's lives that it wouldn't be easy for them to move on. But loving them, we also don't want the loss to be hard on them.

Although I didn't find the characters all that likable, the sto
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, death
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 24, 2007 rated it really liked it

Wolitzer is extremely easy to read. I started with The Wife, after toxicpickle gave it to me (I recommend it).

Sara, the much-loved central character, dies early in the novel, and the rest is spent mourning her. She is the tie that binds her friends together - the hub of the wheel; only after her death is each character released. It's a fascinating idea, that a person can be so compelling that people around her are pulled into her gravitational field.
Aug 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
I didn't realize that I had seen this movie until I read the part where either the mother or daughter would say, "Surrender, Dorothy," each time the other one picked up the phone. As soon as I read it, I remembered it from the movie, and how much I hated that goofy phrase. I looked up reviews on both the movie and the book and decided not to finish the book since they sound exactly the same and I didn't much care for the movie. It was just o.k.
Apr 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
I'm not sure why this one didn't do it for me -- nothing wrong with it structurally, and Wolitzer's writing is accessible. The premise is also strong. But for some reason I never engaged with the characters. They didn't feel like people I would choose to be friends with, which made it harder for me to empathize with them. And in a book about overcoming loss, that's a fatal blow. But I do think it's worth reading, and I'm sure I'm in the minority as far as this novel goes.
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Once again, Meg Wolitzer proves to be a salve against the mediocre novel that I read immediately before her work. In this one, she chronicles a mid-90s August between a group of people adjusting to new realities after one of their own dies in a car crash.

Sara is a 30-something Japanese-studies graduate student, perpetually single and perpetually dating, who is unsure of where she is going in her life. Much of the first chapter is dedicated to her sense of identity, history and insecurity before
Bev Sturgis
Sep 02, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
i was surprised by the 1 & 2 star reviews here, the book is amazing & Wolitzer's writing incredible. i felt Sara was a metaphor, for youth and desirability, fantasies of perpetual studenthood or (Broadway) fame, and attachment to our parents, all of which die before we can move to adulthood, which Wolitzer proposes to be 30. Sara is the foolish thing we do (cheating, drinking, smoking, hating parents) that each character must reconcile. i love that she hides her anger at her mother so de ...more
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
My favorite so far. Shocked so near the beginning when Sara is killed in an auto accident. The group of same aged "children" who inhabit this summer house at the beach each year have come up again but everything is thrown crazy with Sara's death.
Each reacts differently to death but when Sara's mother arrives, it brings each of them something special. Like the elephant described by the blind, they each find what they need or want in her.
Meg describes moments in time so vividly you can see them cl
Feb 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this in anticipation of reading Wolitzer's new book and to prepare for an interview with her. Although I think it's a bit slight, it does have so many elements that I've come to really admire in Wolitzer's work - the emphasis on friendship, the bonds between parent and child, and the willingness to just go there, no matter what the emotions are. And I think it's really gutsy to kill off your main character in the first chapter.
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was fun to discover that one of the characters was a Japanese studies major. I liked all of the references to Japan and Japanese.

I put off reading this book for a long time because it's about death and grief, but Wolitzer has a light touch and she can be very funny, so it was a pleasure to read.
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
A touching portrait of a mother's grief.
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
A light read ... kind of dry. Not exactly my kind of read but I can't NOT finish a book.
Dec 11, 2018 rated it liked it
It’s ok. One of her weaker novels
Nov 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is my favorite kind of book: sensitive character development, believable characters, doesn't take itself too seriously.
Mar 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
In a mustard-colored house in the Hamptons, four friends gather every August. They are thirty-something these days, and sometimes, they can scarcely bear to revisit the dilapidated and somewhat trashy house. But sentiment and habit draw them back every year.

But this year will be a very different one for Peter, Maddy, Adam and Sara. In the first week of this, their summer retreat, Sara will die in a car accident.

It happens when Sara and Adam are returning from buying ice cream at the Fro-Z-Cone s
Jennifer Seyfried
Jan 25, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a more serious read than the others I've read by this author. I should have been tipped off by the blurb that lets you know it's about the death of the woman that is presented as the main character in the first chapter. If the sudden death is shocking to the reader, imagine how it is to the friends who are waiting for her back at the house or for her mother, who not surprisingly have a hard time coming to grips with what has happened. It really is an interesting look at different ways of ...more
Feb 07, 2013 rated it liked it
When I took this off the shelf the other day I thought it might be chicklit and wondered what I was doing with it. But the back suggested another story, so I dug in.

It's about death. Death of a 30-year-old woman who was struggling to find her place in the world, who knew she had hardly begun. Sara Swerdlow was close to her mother and close to a few friends, and her death affected them all profoundly. Her closest friends, her mother, and a few young people who didn't really know her find themselv
Jun 10, 2008 marked it as left-unfinished
Shelves: gay-lit
On reading the first line, I knew this book wasn't for me, but it'd get too complicated explaining why. I'd come off suggesting everyone was hiding his or her latent homosexual inclinations, but where would that get me? And it's not fair to judge a book whose premise I don't accept. So no, this isn't a review, but an explanation of why I can't read or review this book: because in the end it's all too transparent to me how my understanding of the world differs from Wolitzer's simple face-value co ...more
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
Yet another ponderous adult novel. I'm starting to believe that the art of writing adult novels is dead. I've yet to read a truly good one from the last two decades. Same cliche "What am I going to do with my life? Where am I going?" questions asked.

The only thing that earned this book a second star was that fact that I saw a lot of my mom and me in Sara and her mother. My mom is my best friend, and in a way I am her best friend. If I died, my mom would be completely shattered. If she died, I
Kim Hooper
Jan 14, 2015 rated it liked it
I didn't love this book, but I didn't hate it either. It reminded me of a play, with most of the action taking place in one location and most of the story based on conversations between the characters. Grief is a funny thing and I'm always morbidly interested in reading stories that deal with it head-on. This is a light read for a heavy subject. In the end, I thought the characters were pretty well-developed and I was interested enough in seeing in through. I like Wolitzer's other books better t ...more
Oct 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
Not sure I would read it again. An interesting read, but not something on my "have to recommend" list.

I didn't like how Maddy just seemed to forgive Peter for his cheating, both with Sara and Natalie. I can understand if Wolitzer had followed their stories into the fall and there she forgave Peter, but within days, it just doesn't seem enough for me.

I did like that she kept the story limited to the summer house and didn't follow their stories because it was a turning point for them and their li
Aug 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Wow. It's so great to find a writer by pure chance. I picked up The Position previous to this one because it was a second-hand copy (cheap!) and I was intrigued by the premise. This book continued to deliver Meg Wolitzer's affable and insightful voice. I didn't like it *quite* as much, the scope was narrower, dealing with a loved one's death, but I gobbled it down like candy and felt slightly remorseful after, simply because it was over.
Oct 07, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Andrea by: the one the List recommended wasn't available at the library, so
Shelves: chick-lit
Ugh! The joyless sex was as depressing as the obsession with death. For such a supposedly wonderful woman, Sara seemed to me to be immature and narcissitic. And Adam was such a total cliche. I did manage to finish it pretty quickly, which is the only reason it got more than 1 star. I've heard that Wolitzer generally writes funny books, so maybe I'll keep looking for the 10 Year Nap at the library and give her another chance.
Sep 11, 2007 rated it liked it
In this book a girl is killed while away on vacation with her friends (they've rented a house for the summer) and the girl's mother winds up coming to stay with them. The notion of who "owns" someone after they die, the family or the friends was interesting as way the way the friends struggled to related to each other without Sara (the girl who dies) as a buffer but there were things that bugged me too. Good, but not great.
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Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times–bestselling author of The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, The Wife, and Sleepwalking. She is also the author of the young adult novel Belzhar. Wolitzer lives in New York City.
“Parents should be completely dull and ordinary and predictable. You want their relationship to be stable and incredibly boring, as though you would kill yourself if you had to be in that marriage.” Neither” 0 likes
“Friendship was a thing of extraordinary value, ever since it had become clear to both of them that lovers never lasted, and that families were the traps you walked into on major holidays and emerged from the next day, stuffed with carbohydrates and seething.” 0 likes
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