Excerpted from The Necklace by Cheryl Jarvis. Copyright © 2008 by Cheryl Jarvis. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
A Conversation Between Dr. Roz Warner, One of The Women of Jewelia, and Cheryl Jarvis
Dr. Roz Warner: I can see that you’re a woman who doesn’t wear jewelry. What attracted you to writing our story?
Cheryl Jarvis: I hadn’t been in a jewelry store in twenty years, and at first, I was ambivalent about taking on the project. All I knew was that thirteen women had collectively bought a diamond necklace. But I thought there might be more to the story, so I flew to California to meet with you and Jonell. By the end of the meeting, I was hooked.
RW: What changed your mind?
CJ: First, the two of you were nothing like I’d anticipated. For you, the story wasn’t about the necklace. Nor was it for any of the eleven others. The story was really about the needs of women at a mature stage in life. And that subject interested me.
The other intriguing element was the group’s diversity. Many of us gravitate to those of like mind, and increasingly so as we get older, but these women have thrived on their differences, or perhaps in spite of them.
RW: Did anything else persuade you to write our story?
CJ: Yes. Typically a woman who owns an expensive piece of jewelry wears it ten or fifteen times a year. This necklace is worn 365 days a year by hundreds of individuals. And that part of the story was to me the heart of it–that a piece of jewelry became a catalyst to build and nurture relationships, not just among the thirteen women but with an entire community.
RW: How long did it take you to write the book?
CJ: The research and writing took a year. I spent a week or two with each woman as she went about her life. It was an unexpected opportunity to see how thirteen women my age live their lives. That was the fun part.
RW: What was the hard part?
CJ: The greatest challenge was figuring out how to structure the book. Thirteen individual stories had to be woven into a larger group story.
RW: What do you hope people take away from this book?
CJ: That with collaboration and creative thinking, we can change our lives in profound ways. One of the things I like about this story is that it begins with a familiar scenario: looking in a store window wanting something on display. These women took a universal experience and turned it inside out. Through an object as material as a necklace, they connected with their community in ways none of them had anticipated or imagined. Who would have thought?
A Conversation Between Dr. Roz Warner, One of The Women of Jewelia, and Patricia Raskin
Patricia Raskin M.Ed. is a nationally recognized broadcaster of positive media messaging and host of Positive Living™ talk radio, heard online and over the airwaves. She is an award-winning producer, author, and motivational speaker. For more information and to listen to her interviews, log onto www.patriciaraskin.com.
Patricia Raskin: It seems to me that when the experiment began the women did have something in common. They were either isolated, or their lives revolved around a small circle, and sharing this necklace opened them to a wider connection. Would you say that’s accurate?
Roz Warner: That’s accurate. What’s amazing to me is that we are all so different, that each woman had her own reason for joining the group and, eventually, her own story of transformation. There was a core group who had known one another for a long time. They wanted to continue having fun together, and the necklace provided them with that opportunity. Several others were in the midst of lifechanging events, and Priscilla, the wife of the jeweler we bought the necklace from, had just lost her sister.
PR: Tell us more about making the deal with the jeweler Tom Van Gundy.
RW: For Tom it wasn’t about the money; he wanted to see his wife laugh again. He wanted her to be able to share the joy these women were sharing with one another.
PR: The fact that he saw this is such a beautiful testimony to relationships. This was an opportunity for him to reach out for her.
RW: That’s right. That is such an important part of this story. If it weren’t for Tom, who was willing to sell us the necklace at that price, it wouldn’t have mattered how many women we could have gotten together.
PR: What did the group do for you personally?
RW: I came to Ventura eight years ago from Philadelphia, so at the time this group began I was kind of an outsider. I didn’t have female friends.
I was one of the women who initially said no to the necklace. How would I relate to women and become part of a group with them? It’s not something I had ever experienced. Today, four years later, I have this group of friends I can call if I need help, or if I just need to talk to someone. I probably speak to one or two of these women every day and not necessarily the same ones. That’s something I never had before.
PR: What’s one of your favorite stories about the other women?
RW: When it was Dale Muegenburg’s time to wear the necklace she was so excited. She put it on, looked in the mirror, and said “Don’t I look gorgeous?” Then she realized that her image of what she thought she should look like and what she actually saw were very different. So she decided to make a change. In the process of losing weight and thinking of other possibilities for her life, she revitalized her marriage.
PR: What was the group able to do, as a result of this new connection, that they weren’t able to do before?
RW: We have really expanded into the community. We’ve done a number of fundraisers. Ventura now considers us a model for what the city is calling “A Circle of Caring.” It’s an advocacy program for the homeless. A year ago we found out about a woman who was living behind a statue on the grounds of the Mission Church in Ventura–that was her home. This woman had no opportunities, so we tried to help make her life better.
PR: If listeners get one thing out of this program–what’s the message?
RW: As a group we’ve discovered that the more we’ve shared, the more we’ve gained. It’s not about the diamonds, it’s not about wealth. It’s about expanding your life by sharing yourself with others. I hope that women can find some part of themselves in this book, that maybe they can use it as a blueprint to expand their own lives and share in some way, try an experiment of their own. It doesn’t have to be a necklace. It can be a thought. It can be an hour of your time. Make an adventure out of it.
(The preceding interview was originally recorded on December 15, 2008 and is reproduced here, with permission, in an abridged form.)
1. What is the significance of the Jean Shinoda Bolen quote that begins the book:
“Here we are, women who have been the beneficiaries of education, resources, reproductive choice, travel opportunities, the Internet, and a longer life expectancy than women have ever had in history. What can and will we do?”
2. The author gives each woman a two-word description in the chapter titles. Why do you think the author created these? What do you think of the different descriptors?
3. Were you surprised at how open the women were to discussing intimate details of their lives? Do you think they would have been so candid in their twenties? Thirties? Forties? Would you be comfortable revealing your life this way?
4. Of the thirteen women, which one did you most identify with? Who did you most admire?
5. Do you think the structure of the book, with each chapter being a profile of one woman, was effective? Or do you think the book would have been better if just a few women had been featured in more depth? If so, who would you have chosen?
6. What do you think of the disagreements between Jonell and the group in chapters 8 and 12? Were you aligned with Jonell on either one?
7. The women decided to purchase a luxury diamond necklace five years ago, long before the current financial crisis. Does the country’s economic plight make the story less relevant? Why or why not?
8. Would the story have been just as compelling if the women had shared a rhinestone necklace or a piece of pottery or a pair of jeans? Is there any significance to a luxury piece of jewelry?
9. Though some of the women came from impoverished backgrounds, today all thirteen could be called upper middle class. Do you think this story is just as relevant for women from other socioeconomic or ethnic groups?
10. The subtitle of this book, Thirteen Women and the Experiment That Transformed Their Lives, indicates that each woman was changed by the experience of being in the group. Do you feel the author effectively showed the transformation in each woman, or not?
11. At the time the book was written the experiment had already been featured in People magazine and attracted a movie deal. Do you think this media attention affected the women’s staying together? Do you think the group will still be together two/five/ten years from now?
12. Have you ever shared a valuable possession with friends? If so, how did that work out? If not, would you be willing to? What would you choose to share with a group? Has the book changed your views on personal luxuries?
13. Is this a decidedly female story, or can you imagine a group of men doing something similar?