This Is What Happens
By Chris Wind
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How is it that the girl who got the top marks in high school ends up, at fifty, scrubbing floors and cleaning toilets for minimum wage, living in a room above Vera's Hairstyling, in a god-forsaken town called Powassan?
Feminist theorist Dale Spender wrote, in Women of Ideas and What Men Have Done to Them, "We need to know how patriarchy works. We need to know how women disappear...." Although Spender spoke of women who disappear from the historical record, women all too often seem to disappear from any sort of public life as soon as they leave high school: so many shine there, but once they graduate, they become invisible.
Where are all the straight-A girls from high school? Why, how, have they 'disappeared'? Marriage and kids is an inadequate answer because married-with-kids straight-A boys (of which, let's acknowledge, there are fewer) are visible. Everywhere. Even the straight-B boys are out there. So what happens?
This is what happens provides several answers as it traces this disappearance with a microscopic examination of one woman's life. There are three voices juxtaposed throughout the novel: the fresh, impassioned protagonist speaking through her journal entries from the age of fifteen; the sarcastic, now-fifty protagonist commenting about the events of her life, occasionally speaking to her younger self; and the dispassionate narrator.
The novel's audience is primarily women—it will resonate most with older women, but it is younger women who most need to read it. Because this is what happens.