Tiger of the Week: Jennifer Weiner ’91

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(Photo by Andrea Cipriani Mecchi)

In creating the protagonists for many of her popular novels, Jennifer Weiner ’91 frequently drew on personal experience. “I’ve written a lot of characters like me,” she told The Wall Street Journal in July. “They went to Princeton, or they’re journalists, or they have gay moms.” But Sylvie Woodruff, the central figure in Weiner’s new page-turner Fly Away Home, is different: She’s a 57-year-old mom with grown kids and she’s just entered the unenviable club of political wives thrust into the spotlight by their husbands’ indiscretions. (Woodruff’s husband, Robert, is a senator who had an affair with a younger woman.)

While Weiner did not have much direct experience to inform her writing, she had plenty of real-life examples, and according to reviewers and readers, she has successfully brought the familiar character to life in her novel. The Associated Press said Fly Away Home is Weiner’s “best offering in years,” and USA Today called it an “unflappably fun read,” partly because Weiner makes Sylvie such a likable and accessible character.

Fly Away Home also has been a commercial success in the summer beach-reading market, climbing to the top five on several fiction best-seller lists, including The New York Times, Amazon.com, and Publishers Weekly.

Weiner, whose Princeton mentors included Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison, and John McPhee ’53, said that her writing has always tended to follow mainstream sensibilities, even in undergraduate creative writing workshops. “My teachers were OK with it,” she said in the recent Wall Street Journal interview. “My peers were like, ‘Is this the best you can do? Aren’t we all supposed to be writing arty, experimental stuff about death and suicide and whether you’re gay?’ I could tell who was going to write literary fiction that would win prizes and no one was going to actually read. I wanted to write stuff people would read.”

Do you have a nominee for Tiger of the Week? Let us know. All alumni qualify. PAW’s Tiger of the Week is selected by our staff, with help from readers like you.

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