Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book review of Friendship by Emily Gould

A novel about two friends learning the difference between getting older and growing up

Bev Tunney and Amy Schein have been best friends for years; now, at thirty, they’re at a crossroads. Bev is a Midwestern striver still mourning a years-old romantic catastrophe. Amy is an East Coast princess whose luck and charm have too long allowed her to cruise through life. Bev is stuck in circumstances that would have barely passed for bohemian in her mid-twenties: temping, living with roommates, drowning in student-loan debt. Amy is still riding the tailwinds of her early success, but her habit of burning bridges is finally catching up to her. And now Bev is pregnant.

As Bev and Amy are dragged, kicking and screaming, into real adulthood, they have to face the possibility that growing up might mean growing apart.

Friendship, Emily Gould’s debut novel, traces the evolution of a friendship with humor and wry sympathy. Gould examines the relationship between two women who want to help each other but sometimes can’t help themselves; who want to make good decisions but sometimes fall prey to their own worst impulses; whose generous intentions are sometimes overwhelmed by petty concerns.

This is a novel about the way we speak and live today; about the ways we disappoint and betray one another. At once a meditation on the modern meaning of maturity and a timeless portrait of the underexamined bond that exists between friends, this exacting and truthful novel is a revelation.

The reason I picked up this book is because it was recommended by some article or other to anyone who is a fan of the HBO show Girls (a must-watch – just saying). While it is not as funny or as graphic, it has that raw honesty that I find to be rare in fiction. One thing I can’t handle is those obvious, cliché character friendships that are all too common. I’m talking about that ideal BFF kind of relationship where two friends are there for each other no matter what, who may have a big fight but resolve everything in the end. That isn’t always the reality. True friendship is hard. In Friendship, Emily Gould manages to bring to light the honest day-to-day components of a deep female friendship: trust, love, inside jokes, distance, misunderstandings, disappointment,  jealousy, growing together and growing apart.

This story follows the friendship between two thirty-year-old women in New York City, neither of whom are where they thought they’d be at this age, but (most times) have each other to lean on. Beth, who still hasn’t gotten over a past heartbreak, has an unsteady job with little pay and is still living with roommates, becomes pregnant after a one night stand. Amy, on the other hand, is in a relationship that isn’t progressing the way she’d hoped and for the first time, finds herself poor after rashly quitting her degrading online blogging job. As both women battle their own financial, emotional and physical burdens, their friendship suffers as they are torn down different life paths, where they both try to finally “grow up”, getting lost along the way. The question is whether or not their friendship can endure.

As I said, what I loved about this book was that it felt honest and real. Any young woman who has ever had a female best friend will be able to relate to this story on some level. Emily Gould does a great job at portraying the intricate and complicated workings of friendship between two very different women in a way that is funny and sad and real. This, coupled with the big city backdrop, is what brings the story to life.

All in all, a wonderful light and fun read with just the right amount of Feels.

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