Half of the United States is waiting for Justice Sylvia Olin Bernstein to die. The other half is praying for her to hold on. At 83, "the contemptuous S.O.B." doesn't have much time left. What she has is a story-of how she rose to her historic position on the Supreme Court, and the personal sacrifices she made along the way. From falling helplessly in love in law school, to navigating an unplanned pregnancy and motherhood, to figuring out how to spar with a sexist mentor and win, Sylvia's intimate story shows who she was before she wore the robe: a daughter, a best friend, a lover, a wife, a mother. Her personal life may have been caught in a dramatic tug of war between the competing desires of love and morality, truth and convenience, ambition and kindness, but her stubbornness, zeal, and persistent hope would change the course of American history.
The author departs liberally from Ginsburg’s well-known and oft-dramatized biography ... The Majority reminds us that individual motivations don’t always line up neatly with collective needs. And that a political machine counts for nothing if it doesn’t put people first.
Silver is particularly persuasive when dramatizing what women faced when trying to maintain careers and families in the 1970s. The many specific similarities between Sylvia and Ginsburg make it tricky, of course, to tell where Silver is inventing events and relationships.
Readers will, of necessity, think of real-life trailblazers Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but Silver wisely brings a universality to Sylvia’s story of sacrifice and determination, making it recognizable to women of every era, background, and profession who battle to forge their own paths against society’s limiting expectations.