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I initially felt that Emily Gould’s debut novel, though a good read and definitely one that deals with today’s female reality, was not exactly my “cup of tea.” Specifically, I didn’t think I could find anything of interest in the storyline, since I’m not exactly the ideal demographic audience of 20- to 30-year-olds that this novel is geared toward. As a member of the “older generation” where we were often reminded of how important it was to MAKE NEW FRIENDS, BUT KEEP THE OLD, it came as a nice surprise to realize that, after about 40 pages into the book, Gould was stating this same revelation: friendship is the one relationship that, when nurtured with the best intentions, can grow in the most exemplary ways. Needless to say, my interest was further piqued by the mere fact that she recognized the obvious --- that getting older and growing up doesn’t necessarily follow in that same order.

"FRIENDSHIP is a complex novel filled with a mixture of love, loyalty and even resentment, but it is also a story of strength and the promise that both 'old' and 'new' friendships are golden."

In fact, as Gould retraces the evolution of a friendship, it becomes quite apparent that relationships between friends --- although common --- can be exacting and truthful, which in itself can be a revelation. Releasing a fragility of emotions, with humor and a wry sense of sympathy, Gould is able to relay a modern meaning of maturity and a timeless bond that exists between friends, with a clarity and determination that most women can understand, no matter their age.

By definition, a friend is a person you know and with whom you have a special bond of mutual affection, a category that definedBev and Amy’s relationship to a tee in FRIENDSHIP. As best friends, they travel headlong into a path that leads to adulthood, one that contains many twists and turns and eventually the “mea culpa” of their friendship --- an emotional crossroads. With urgency and heart, the characters throw caution to the wind and expose raw emotions that betray their vulnerability and allow the reader to be swept along on this bittersweet rendering of a woman’s urgent need for human connection.

Bev and Amy have been BFFs for years, sharing life’s ups and downs with both tears and laughter, all while living in New York City, a Mecca for undermining close and honest relationships. Understandably, since Bev is a Midwesterner, living there was more of an adjustment for her, and she found herself stuck in circumstances that didn’t quite live up to her idea of achievement. Temping, roommates, student loans and pregnancy were crushing her idealism, and her walls seemed to be crashing down.

Amy seemed to thrive in this city atmosphere, though, and ultimately skated through life exhibiting a likability that only a charmed person could attain. Riding the waves of earlier successes allowed her to tread water for a while, but soon a storm would appear on the horizon, wreaking havoc with her so-called utopia. Job-wise, apartment-wise and relationship-wise, all hell would break loose, and Amy, too, would find her world falling down.                

Amy, who seems to have the brightest future, is confronted with the reality that “burnt bridges” have a way of coming back to haunt you, when luck and charm betray you, and that growing up is an adult process --- one that she isn’t quite ready to handle. Bev, on the other hand, portrayed as the underachiever and unlucky in love (she dropped out of an MBA program and walked away from a romantic relationship to follow a dream) possesses a determination to succeed one day, no matter the odds. Ultimately, adulthood means something different to both girls, and when they arrive at this reality --- kicking and screaming --- it becomes a big deterrent to their lasting friendship and the one important piece of a puzzle that Amy ignores. 

Perceptively, the characters here are portrayed as honest, hardworking, strong individuals with a penchant to succeed, paralleling many of our lives. As a result, the focused, readable and very funny dialogue in this story lends a modernistic endurance to the plot that can’t be denied. Without a doubt, professional insecurity and personal uncertainty are two areas that everyone can agree, when exposed, make us vulnerable and becomes a catalyst to force us out of complacency and back into a world where adult relationships can flourish. With certainty, FRIENDSHIP is a complex novel filled with a mixture of love, loyalty and even resentment, but it is also a story of strength and the promise that both “old” and “new” friendships are golden.

Reviewed by Donna Smallwood on July 11, 2014

by Emily Gould

  • Publication Date: July 7, 2015
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Picador
  • ISBN-10: 1250070481
  • ISBN-13: 9781250070487