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Surrender, Dorothy

3.29  ·  Rating details ·  887 ratings  ·  101 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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Average rating 3.29  · 
Rating details
 ·  887 ratings  ·  101 reviews

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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
May 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
The opening chapter about a lovely, lively 20 something and her gay long time best friend reminded me of my daughter and her fiend, which made the book even more devastating. She got killed in a car accident, and the story covers the mother's grief stricken choice to move into the summer share house with Sara's closest friends, as each of them deal with the grief and loss. So much harder to read thinking how I would feel, cope, go on in that situation. ...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. ...more
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. ...more
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
The book began. It continued forward and reached a middle with the appearance of about half the pages read. Occasionally, I mused about the paper that filled the space between the covers. In the end, however, those other books that I didn't read caused an emotion to hit me. The end plodded up and stopped. I recommend that words are the goal when you read this book.
Great title, though.
Sep 18, 2020 rated it did not like it
I just didn't get on with it, the story was weak with not much interesting happening and didn't feel the characters grew much ...more
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
Laurie Hoppe
Jan 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
A tight knit group of friends spends part of the summer together every year at the same beach house. This year, the tragic and unthinkable happens. Sara, their hub, dies suddenly. The friends are adrift in grief and despair. Sara's divorced mother, miserable and alone, joins them in the house. Together they all mourn and alternately try to keep Sara alive with memories, and try to heal and get past their grief.

I loved Adam, Sara's playwright friend. He was complex and loving and, ultimately the
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 deeply it ...more
Bev Sturgis
Sep 02, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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. ...more
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.
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
This was a book that was easy to keep reading and had a lot to say about family, friendship, death, and life. At the same time, however, it felt shallow and annoying. I didn't connect with any of the characters and thus found their struggles (which seemed to mostly be related to their sex lives) boring. ...more
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ah, this one did not disappoint! What an interesting idea for a novel, and as always, such realistic, multi-faceted characters from Meg Wolitzer.

I feel so lucky to have found her books in this period of my life. I hope she has many more books in the pipeline because no one articulates the early-30s existential 'urghs' quite like she does.
Anna Taylor
Oct 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
The third Meg Wolitzer I've read. I read The Interesting so long ago that I don't honestly know if I would rate this as her best or second best (I just know it was much better than the pretentious Ten Year Nap). It was heartbreakingly real in its depiction of grief from different viewpoints. It won't make you cry but it will make you think. ...more
Mar 28, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you want to read a book that is all about the death of a character you have no investment in and the depressives who are mourning her that you have even less investment in, this is the book for you.
Depressing with no payoff or insights.Don’t even bother.
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. ...more
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
A touching portrait of a mother's grief. ...more
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. ...more
Dec 11, 2018 rated it liked it
It’s ok. One of her weaker novels
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A meditation on grief and loss. A character driven novel about the aftermath of a tragedy.
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Saw Meg Wolitzer at the BBF and randomly picked this up at BKPL. Not the best first impression - didn't care for any of the characters so I'll try more recent works. ...more
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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.

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