Kindred Spirits, by Sarah Strohmeyer (New York: Penguin Group, 2011)
"When life gives you lemons, call your best girlfriends and whip up some lemon martinis. Such is the mantra for the Ladies Society for the Conservation of Martinis, which was established after one fateful PTA meeting when four young mothers -- Lynne, Mary Kay, Beth, and Carol -- discovered they had more in common than they ever thought possible.
"Meeting once a month, the women would share laughs and secrets and toast to their blossoming friendship with a clink of their sacred martini glasses. The Society was their salvation, their refuge, a place where they could vent about kids, work, and husbands and celebrate their mutual appreciation for a good cocktail. But when life-shattering circumstances force the group to dissolve, their friendship is never quite the same ... until two years later, when a tragic event puts the Society back in session.
"When Lynne passes away suddenly, she leaves behind one simple request: that her old friends sort through her belongings. Reluctantly, the women reunite to rummage through her closets. There's nothing remarkable -- no kinky sex toys, no embarrassing diary. But buried deep within Lynne's lingerie drawer is an envelope addressed to the Society. In it, they find a letter than reveals a stunning personal secret and a final wish that will send the woman on a life-changing journey where they will discover unexpected truths about themselves, each other, and the meaning of friendship."
"A martini is the world's most sophisticated cocktail, a classic of beauty and simplicity that derives its intoxicating allure from the melding of four strikingly different sensations."
As I suspected, Kindred Spirits was no Dreams of Joy. While it wasn't quite as formulaic as Legacy, it was certainly closer to that end of the continuum. Even as a heartwarming story about female friendship, others have done far better at capturing the complex bonds among group members and making us care what happens to the characters.
Maybe it's because there's no real tension here. All we know is that the four principals met and bonded at a PTA meeting several years ago, after which they started getting together once a month for girl talk and martinis. Eventually, Lynne battles cancer, and Carol has a mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore moment that leads her, inexplicably, to leave her husband and kids and start a new life as a career gal in NYC ... which causes the Society to drift apart until Lynne's death two years later. During the course of the novel, the three survivors sort through Lynne's belongings and find a top-secret letter asking them to find the baby girl she'd given up for adoption 30 years earlier. Along the way, Carol begins to wonder whether she'd been a bit too hasty in leaving her marriage, Mary Kay agonizes after how to tell fiance Drake that she can't have children, and Beth worries that the life she and her husband had always dreamed of is passing them by. Any or all this could make for a halfway decent story, except the characters and their feelings aren't really presented with enough depth or description to hook us in. They never seem to argue, and we see little of their friendship -- dialogue, memories, etc. -- to understand why they became close in the first place, what made the others stop seeing each other after Carol left, etc.
All in all, not a horrible way to spend an afternoon, but not especially memorable, either.
- 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.