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The Friends We Keep

Review

The Friends We Keep

If there’s one reliable indicator that summer is on the way, it’s the publication of the newest novel by Jane Green. Her latest is no exception; it’s the kind of book that will be equally at home in your beach bag or on the coffee table at your next book group discussion.

THE FRIENDS WE KEEP traces the lives of three friends over several decades, from when they meet as first-year students at an English university in the 1980s until they are reunited --- all of them much changed --- in their 50s.

Maggie is in many ways the most conventional of the friends. She’s an attractive English girl who finds herself attracted to the moody bartender (she and her friends dub him Evil Ben) at their local pub. Unlike her friends, Maggie knows she’s not destined for stardom, but she’ll be perfectly happy if she can settle down with a nice man (perhaps Evil Ben?) and raise a large family. But life --- in the form of infertility and addiction --- has a way of disrupting even the sunniest, best-laid plans, and in middle age Maggie finds herself adrift and unsure how to fill the empty rooms in the manor house she and Ben once optimistically bought together.

"Readers will enjoy seeing how Evvie, Topher and Maggie reconcile the young people they were then with the more mature but still evolving adults they are now."

At college, Maggie and Evvie became roommates by accident. Both despised the girls with whom they were originally matched, so they pulled some strings to wind up together. Evvie, who is half Jamaican, was a child star on a sitcom much like “The Cosby Show,” and she has aspirations to continue acting after college. But her problematic relationships with men and with her body --- not to mention a disturbing dependence on diet pills --- make those goals increasingly complicated. And when Evvie and Maggie reunite after decades apart, Evvie has to decide whether and how to confess a possibly unforgiveable secret to her one-time best friend.

The third leg in this friendship tripod is occupied by an American man, Topher, who, like Evvie, is an aspiring actor. Topher is funny and affectionate, but dislikes being touched or hugged --- and even though Evvie and Maggie suspect from day one that he is gay, he has trouble accepting his own sexuality. When, after a stint on a soap opera and the publication of a bestselling memoir, Topher comes to terms with secrets in his own past, he finally begins to heal --- but remains in some ways fundamentally alone.

THE FRIENDS WE KEEP traces each friend’s history both jointly and independently, with a particular focus on Maggie’s troubled marriage and its aftermath. Readers will enjoy seeing how Evvie, Topher and Maggie reconcile the young people they were then with the more mature but still evolving adults they are now. Some may find the resolution of the book’s central conflict a bit too hastily achieved. But in the end, Green’s novel is about forgiveness, self-acceptance, and learning to truly see and appreciate the people in our lives for who they are, however imperfect.

I fully expect to see THE FRIENDS WE KEEP on countless beach blankets and poolside lounges this summer.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on June 7, 2019

The Friends We Keep
by Jane Green

  • Publication Date: June 4, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0399583343
  • ISBN-13: 9780399583346