Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Necklace: Thirteen Women and the Experiment That Transformed Their Lives - Cheyrl Jarvis

Summary: The true story of thirteen women who took a risk on an expensive diamond necklace and, in the process, changed not only themselves but a community.

Four years ago, in Ventura, California, Jonell McLain saw a diamond necklace in a local jewelry store display window. The necklace aroused desire first, then a provocative question: Why are personal luxuries so plentiful yet accessible to so few? What if we shared what we desired? Several weeks, dozens of phone calls, and a leap of faith later, Jonell bought the necklace with twelve other women, with the goal of sharing it.

Part charm, part metaphor, part mirror, the necklace weaves in and out of each woman’s life, reflecting her past, defining her present, making promises for her future. Lending sparkle in surprising and unexpected ways, the necklace comes to mean something dramatically different to each of the thirteen women.

With vastly dissimilar histories and lives, the women show us how they transcended their individual personalities and politics to join together in an uncommon journey. What started as a quirky social experiment became something far richer and deeper, as the women transformed a symbol of exclusivity into a symbol of inclusiveness. They discovered that sharing the necklace among themselves was only the beginning; The more they shared with others, the more profound this experience–and experiment–became.

Original, resonant, and beautifully told, this book is an inspiring story about a necklace that became greater than the sum of its links, and about thirteen ordinary women who understood the power of possibility, who touched the lives of a community, and who together created one extraordinary experience.
(Cover Photo from, Summary from book jacket)

My Review: I found this to be a creative, fascinating experiment and was curious about the women who would be willing to fork over more than $1000 a piece to buy a necklace they had to share. These women formed a club around the necklace, getting together each month to discuss everything from insurance issues to sharing rules. They even went as far to bestow upon the necklace a quirky name, Jewelia, and would discuss in depth the different places the necklace was worn during the last month. At times I had to wonder how another woman could stand the thought of that around her neck after knowing where it had been.

The book is divided into 14 chapters, one for each woman and a final chapter about the overall experiment with the necklace. I dove into the book expecting a little background information about each woman, as well as the story of why they decided to participate in this experiment and how sharing the necklace has changed them. I was also expecting a few thoughts from each woman about the highs and lows of the adventure they have undertook. This was where I found myself disappointed.

With the exception of two women, Jarvis merely touches on each woman. Although each woman has her own chapter, it may be only a few paragraphs in that chapter that speaks of who that lady really is. During those paragraphs you are more likely to hear a physical account of the woman (blond, thin, tan, etc), then anything of real substance. The rest of the chapter is spent highlighting the happenings of the necklace experiment, which would have fit nicely except many times what was going on within the chapter had absolutely nothing to do with the woman who the chapter was titled after. I found this to be rather distracting and thus had a most difficult time keeping the participants' names straight. I felt that each woman was never given her own voice.

If you are going to fit a story about thirteen women into a mere 200 pages you should make every word count and I didn't feel Jarvis accomplished this. There were many, many words wasted on describing the California scenery. Great for a travel guide, not so great for this book. All the descriptions actually had me a little bored. Where's the emotion? A couple women dropped out of the experiment over the years and this was barely touched on. Give me that story instead of explaining in great detail the drive to the different homes, what the inside of each looked like and then going on to explain the view out each window within the home.

I did enjoy the recounts of how the necklace was used to bring happiness to so many more than the original thirteen. It was said so many times that this purchase was more about the sharing then the actually wearing of the necklace and, for the most part, these women proved that. I truly believe that the friendships found amongst the women ended up being much more valuable than the actual necklace.

Though I can't say that I really liked this book, I believe that this will be an interesting book for our book club. I can envision a discussion regarding diamonds and friendship. At points this was an inspiring story, the power woman have when working together as a group. And there's no denying that what these women embarked upon was a unique journey. Though I won't be recommending this book, I do think many would enjoy this condensed version of the story found in Readers Digest.

My Rating: 3 Stars, (4 stars for the story, 2 stars for the actual book)

If I had to sum it up in one sentence it would be: A rather dull account of thirteen unique women who embark upon a very fascinating experiment.


Kim R. said...

I agree. A good idea, just not well executed.

Irish said...

I am one of those ones that really liked the book ... So instead of swapping a diamond necklace we swapped the book instead ....... And all of us in book club quite liked it ... I will be interested to see your take on the Time travellers wife as we all hated the book ...


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