About Me

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.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

#62: Sisterhood Everlasting

Sisterhood Everlasting, by Ann Brashares (New York: Random House, 2011)

"Return to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants ... ten years later.

"From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ann Brashares comes the welcome return of the characters whose friendship became a touchstone for a generation. Now Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget have grown up, starting their lives on their own. And though the jeans they shared are long gone, the sisterhood is everlasting.

"Despite having jobs and men that they love, each knows that something is missing: the closeness that once sustained them. Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to be married, but misses her friends. Lena finds solace in her art, teaching in Rhode Island, but still thinks of Kostos and the road she didn't take. Bridget lives with her longtime boyfriend, Eric, in San Francisco, and though a part of her wants to settle down, a bigger part can't seem to shed her old restlessness.

"Then Tibby reaches out to bridge the distance, sending the others plane tickets for a reunion that they all breathlessly await. And indeed, it will change their lives forever -- but in ways that none of them could ever have expected.

"As moving and live-changing as an encounter with long-lost best friends, Sisterhood Everlasting is a powerful story about growing up, losing your way, and finding the courage to create a new one."

Opening Line:
"Once upon a time, there were four pregnant women who met in an aerobics gym."

My Take:
Again, hope to write a bit more later -- it is what it is, with apologies to those of you who hate that phrase. Entertaining, better than I'd expected/ feared -- but great literature it's not. I do give the author bonus points, though, for letting her characters change in less-than-perfect or -predictable ways in a series that spans many years.

The novel opens with the four principals almost-but-not-quite having gone their separate ways. They're all still committed to the idea of the sisterhood, of course, but in terms of actually feeling the same close connection to their three besties, even though they've now headed down different paths in different places? Not so much. Carmen, as the jacket blurb indicates, has become a successful actress, a regular minor character on a Law and Order-style crime drama, with a loft apartment to die for, engaged to the somewhat-insufferable Jones, more than 10 years her senior and a (pretentious, controlling) VIP in the TV biz. Lena's barely squeaking by as an adjunct/ private art instructor, maintaining a tepid relationship with some dude who works at a sandwich shop nearby and with a social/ emotional life just this side of hermetic/ agoraphobic. Bridget's a latter-day hippie whose SF neighbors know her as That Girl Who Rides Her Bike Everywhere, who seems to have a different job every few weeks, and randomly gives this or the other of her few possessions away to a familiar homeless person in a nearby park. (It's never explicitly specified, but we presume she's being kept afloat financially by Eric, her soccer-playing almost-boyfriend from the original Sisterhood, who's now dropped the almost- and grown up to be a successful lawyer and all-around mensch.) And Tibby? Well, Tibby up and moved to Australia with her boyfriend some time ago, and the gals have heard precious little from her since.

That is, until the story's beginning, where each of the other 3 mysteriously gets a letter and plane ticket from Tibby, inviting/ summoning them to meet for a reunion at Lena's grandparents' place in Santorini. (Lena's grandparents have since passed away, although her parents haven't yet sold the house, and it's never quite clear how Tibby manages to gain access to a house in Greece when she's Down Under and the home's current owner is somewhere in the States.) Everyone accepts, or at least plans to go, each thinking maybe this is the answer to her current restlessness and loneliness. They arrive at the airport, eager as can be for Tibby to meet them ... but wait and wait as they may, she doesn't.

To tell you much more of the story beyond this point would spoil it, which I try not to do ... but I will say that for the rest of the book, each character grapples with her own, newly-launched adult dilemma and the question of how to stay connected with her old friends as their lives diverge. Is that elusive sense of purpose Bridget seeks Somewhere Out There, or is she looking in all the wrong places? Is Lena really as down with the quiet, making-do, good-enough life she's cobbed together in Rhode Island, or should she maybe go back and find that road not taken after all? Carmen's star is rising, but is it really shining where and how she wants it to? And what unimagined chain of events made Tibby up and disappear on them?

Of these four questions, only the last answer was at all surprising -- at least to me. I did, however, appreciate the book's acknowledgement that at some point, any "lifelong" friendships you've made up till, say, your early 20s will be tested by physical and experiential distance ... and while they may or may not last, it's highly unlikely they'll end with all your BFFs living next door/ across the street from you on Wisteria Lane.

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