This time, I needed something a little more substantial than Johnny Bunko, but less bleak than Knockemstiff. Enter The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship, by Jeffrey Zaslow (New York: Gotham Books, 2009).
Summary: "Meet the Ames Girls: eleven childhood friends who formed a special bond growing up in Ames, Iowa. As young women, they moved to eight different states, yet managed to maintain an enduring friendship that would carry them through college and careers, marriage and motherhood, dating and divorce, a child's illness, and the mysterious death of one member of their group. Capturing their remarkable story, The Girls from Ames is a testament to the deep bonds of women as they experience life's joys and challenges -- and the power of friendship to triumph over heartbreak and unexpected tragedy.
"The girls, now in their forties, have a lifetime of memories in common, some evocative of their generation and some that will resonate with any woman who has ever had a friend. Photography by photograph, recollection by recollection, occasionally with tears and often with great laughter, their sweeping and moving story is shared by Jeffrey Zaslow, Wall Street Journal columnist, as he attempts to define the matchless bonds of female friendship. It demonstrates how close female relationships can shape every aspect of women's lives -- their sense of themselves, their choice of men, their need for validation, their relationships with their mothers, their dreams for their daughters -- and reveals how such friendships thrive, rewarding those who have committed to them."
Opening line: "At first, they were just names to me. Karla, Kelly, Marilyn, Jane, Jenny. Karen, Cathy, Angela, Sally, Diana. Sheila."
My take: Worth reading from a human-interest perspective, but I'm not sure what (if anything) the take-away message is. The Girls from Ames follows eleven women, now forty-something, who met as children in Ames, Iowa (some literally as infants, none later than middle school) and have remained friends until this day. One of their number died a somewhat mysterious death in her early 20s; among the 10 survivors, they've grappled with divorce, cancer, and the death of a child.
This tries to be a feel-good book, and mostly it succeeds. For the entire group to maintain this friendship for so many years, despite living in far-flung locales, is indeed impressive. On the other hand, if Zaslow's contention that women really need to forge these friendships by the time they finish high school is accurate, it's not so hopeful for those who don't have a similar network in place by the time they graduate. Not altogether convincing, either (unless that's just my own wishful thinking -- to this day, my own closest friends are those I met during my college days).
In short, if the jacket flap sounds interesting, you'll probably like the book; if it doesn't, you probably won't. WYSIWYG.
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.