Jennifer Weiner

In Her Shoes

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In Her Shoes Summary

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Jewish American author Jennifer Weiner’s New York Times bestselling novel, In Her Shoes (2002) is set across Pennsylvania. The story concerns two sisters, Rose and Maggie Feller, who have little in common beyond their shoe size, love of footwear, and mutual dislike of their stepmother, Sydelle. Rose is a thirty-year-old attorney with a penchant for romance novels, while her younger sister, Maggie, is a gorgeous but irresponsible twenty-eight-year-old Hollywood hopeful with dyslexia. When Rose and Maggie are forced to come together after years of estrangement, they encounter a colorful cast of characters en route to restoring their relationship and learning to, figuratively, walk in the other’s shoes. In 2005, the novel was adapted into a motion picture directed by Curtis Hanson and starring Toni Collette as Rose, Cameron Diaz as Maggie, and Shirley MacLaine as Sydelle.

Narrated in alternating perspectives between siblings Rose and Maggie, the story begins in contemporary Pennsylvania. Rose, an intelligent thirty-year-old lawyer working in Philadelphia, is the elder sister of Maggie, a ditzy twenty-eight-year old ingénue hoping to make it big in Hollywood. Lonely and single, Rose, who has always struggled with her weight, remains jealous of Maggie’s beautiful physique and carefree attitude. She resents the way Maggie uses her beauty to overcome obstacles. Rose tends to read romance novels and watch workout videos in secret. Maggie, on the other hand, is charming but immature, irresponsible, and cannot hold a job largely due to her dyslexia. Her major claim to fame is appearing in a Will Smith music video. Maggie envies Rose’s professionalism and intellectual side. Ever since their mother, Caroline, died in a car accident when they were children, Rose has been looking after Maggie. They were raised by their mournful father, Michael, and their loathsome stepmother, Sydelle. The sisters hate Sydelle, a cruel and cantankerous old lady with a face full of Botox, and Sydelle resents the sisters.

Following middle school, Rose placed well enough on her exams to attend Princeton University. After graduation, she attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Feeling left out and intellectually inferior, Maggie was unable to take the exams due to her dyslexia and her education abruptly ended. After dropping out of high school, Maggie’s inability to find and keep a decent job and manage her money responsibly leads to her eviction from her apartment. Rose, who hasn’t seen Maggie in years, offers to financially support her sister, giving her a place to stay while she sorts out her life. Maggie agrees, and the estranged sisters begin forging a new bond of mutual respect and love as they approach the age Caroline was at the time of her death. As the story unfolds, Rose and Maggie slowly begin to fill the void in each other’s lives.

However, Maggie soon betrays Rose by sleeping with her boyfriend, causing a massive argument between sisters. Rose throws Maggie out of her apartment, forcing the sisters to go their separate ways. Rose quits her job at a prestigious law firm and decides to forgo her Ivy League education to earn a living as a dog walker. She leaves her old boyfriend behind and starts life anew. She eventually begins dating a law colleague Simon Stein, a dreamy Jewish man.

Meanwhile, Maggie runs away, sneaking onto the campus of Princeton University, a place she’s familiar with from visiting Rose when she was a student. Maggie hides in the library basement for a few months, where she reads voraciously and begins to overcome her dyslexia. Maggie takes a part-time job as a caretaker for an elderly woman. To her surprise, Maggie finds that she genuinely enjoys reading, so much so that she begins attending a poetry class. However, when a male student discovers Maggie’s belongings in the library, including his wallet that she stole from him, he exposes her unlawful presence. When Maggie realizes her ruse at Princeton has ended, she runs away. Maggie tracks down her grandmother in Florida, Ella Hirsh, who was kept away from Maggie and Rose since they were children. Maggie uses the old letters written to her father by Ella to find her grandmother’s location.

Spending time together, Maggie learns Ella was forced out of her granddaughters’ lives by their father. He had blamed Ella for the death of their mother, Caroline, who was off her medication for mental impairment at the time of her fatal car accident. Ella had attempted to track down her granddaughters on the Internet, but could only find information on Rose. When Maggie suddenly shows up at her doorstep, Ella is pleasantly surprised and invites her to stay with her. As Maggie and Ella grow closer, Maggie finds a rewarding job as an aide in an assisted living facility. Later, Maggie becomes the personal shopper for the elderly women in Ella’s apartment complex.

At the end of the novel, the three Feller women come together and reconcile their past relationships with one another. Rose marries Simon, putting her loneliness and shameful body issues behind her. Maggie forges a bright future for herself while overcoming her dyslexia. Ella reunites with the grandchildren she was disconnected from when they were children. The story concludes with the Feller women understanding, respecting, and admiring what it feels like to walk in the shoes of others.

In Her Shoes is the second novel written by New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner, following her debut, Good in Bed. She has written ten additional novels since, including Little Earthquakes, Goodnight Nobody, The Guy Not Taken, Certain Girls, Best Friends Forever, Fly Away Home, Then Came You, The Next Best Thing, All Fall Down, and Who Do You Love. Weiner has also written one nonfiction book, Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing. Since 2010, Weiner has written several e Short Stories, including The Half Life, Recalculating, Swim, A Memoir of Grief, Disconnected, and Good Men.