Thursday, June 17, 2010

True friendship lasts: The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow

The phone rang just as President Obama started speaking. I thought, "Oh, no! I'll let voice mail catch it." Then I saw the caller ID in the corner of my TV (technology is handy that way), and I leaped out of my chair.

It was a close friend calling to tell me that another close friend had lost her father to kidney disease. He'd been failing for a while, and they all knew it was coming, but she needed us. All of us, her closest friends.

We became friends through work and school: five teachers in the same elementary school building earning our graduate degrees together. The others in the program nicknamed us the Fab Five. We car pooled together, we exchanged ideas on projects, rehashed the good and the bad from our weekend on Mondays in the teachers' lounge. And after our final projects were mailed and graded, after the diplomas arrived, even after I moved to a new job in a different school, we remained friends. We still share the good, the bad, the hilarious, and the traumatic. We email each other. We turn up in each other's dreams. We still get together to drink coffee and shop, but mainly to talk.

I imagine the ten women who call themselves the Girls from Ames are a lot like us.

The Girls from Ames: a story of women & a forty year friendship is true. It reads like a novel with history and flashbacks, but the back stories are based on scrapbooks and diaries, not an author's imagination. The book is illustrated with a photos from then and now, but more than that, it's illustrated with the stories of relationships.

The "Girls" became friends when they were young. Eleven individuals, all unique, bonded with each other during their high school years in Ames, Iowa. Their hometown, a Midwestern college town, provided the kind of stability and small-town atmosphere typical of America's heartland in the 1960s and 1970s. After their high school graduations, they separated to attend colleges in different states. In a pre-Internet age, without the benefit of email or cell phones, these women stayed in touch and shared marriages, divorces, children, family illnesses, even the death of one of the original eleven.

I've heard it said that men take a long time to get to talking, while women take a long time to get to companionable silence. This is a book about women, written by a male author, chronicles the uniqueness of friendships that have lasted more than forty years. Jeffrey Zaslow (also co-author of The Last Lecture) earned the trust of the Girls from Ames and learned from their talk and their silences. He pulled together eleven different life stories into one coherent collection, much like the eleven women still pull together for each other. His book is truly their story: the story of friendship, life, and love.

The Girls from Ames has a companion website with pictures, video, discussion, questions, and other women's stories of friendship.

I'll be joining the rest of the Fab Five on Monday to support one of our own friendship circle. Blog readers, as you read The Girls from Ames, I hope you will continue to cultivate your own friendships, strengthening and maintaining bonds for life.

Gotham Books provided me with a copy of The Girls from Ames in order to read it and write this review. I received no other compensation for the review.

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Blogger Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

My BFF gave me this book a few months ago--I cannot wait to read it!

6/17/2010 7:33 AM  

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