Is it a sign of impending middle age that I have grown tired of the angst and absorption of modern early adulthood? After all, I turn 40 in less than two weeks.
During its first season I was a huge fan of HBO’s “Girls.” It reminded me just enough of my own twentysomething, mid-1990s, post-college days living in crappy apartments in Boston with Wesleyan friends to tap into my Gen-X nostalgia, and yet I could also enjoy feeling smugly superior to what I perceived as this generation’s over the top narcissism and self-entitlement. (We were never that immature and self-involved, right?)
But after a while I grew impatient. More and more I wanted to slap Hannah, Marnie, and their friends and scream, Grow up!
So I gave up on these intelligent yet underachieving girls — and had long given up on “chick lit” featuring twentysomething tales of career crisis, bad boyfriends, and depressing apartments.
Then I starting hearing about Friendship: A Novel by Emily Gould. In literary circles, the buzz was everywhere. Because of the HerStories Project, I consider it my editorial duty to keep abreast of new literature featuring female friendship as a prominent theme.
But when I read the plot summary, I sighed.
Described by Amazon as “a novel about two friends learning the difference between getting older and growing up,” it tells the story of Bev Tunney and Amy Schein who “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.”
Then when I researched a little bit about the author, I sighed again. Emily Gould is as much a real life version of Lena Dunham as anyone that I’ve heard about. (In fact, it is rumored that the “Girls” character may be based on her.)
Emily Gould is a writer, editor, and blogger best known for baring (oversharing?) her life and soul to millions in her columns and writing (on Gawker, in the New York Times, in her own memoir) to a controversial and startling degree. According to the New York Times, “Funny, vicious and nakedly irreverent, her posts were so aggressive at times that they managed to incense even the customarily affable Jimmy Kimmel.” (In fact the character of Amy must be a thinly disguised version of Gould herself. Amy is a blogger who had “somehow snapped a high-profile job at a locally prominent gossip blog mocking New York City’s rich, powerful, corrupt, ridiculously elite.” Her former days of blogging glory are over though — it’s never quite clear why or how her fall from grace happened — and now she works at Yidster, “the third most popular online destination for cultural coverage with a modern Jewish edge.”)
Despite these concerns about the novel, I was immediately hooked when I picked it up and would recommend it highly even to soon-to-be middle-aged moms like me.
Not surprisingly, what fascinated me was its subtle and realistic depiction of female friendship and its complexity and imperfection, particularly during early adulthood, with its mix of deep love, loyalty, envy, resentment, and support.
For these two women, their friendship is the primary bond in their lives, and they depend on each other to meet their often overwhelming emotional needs. When feckless boyfriends and dead-end jobs disappoint, the best friend is there.
The book is edgy, funny, and wise when it reminds us of that time in many of our lives when we approached 30 with little to show for our struggles. (It’s worth reading just for the vivid, sharply observed details of young urban life, particularly relating to the role of technology in young people’s lives.) It is a book about what it means to be a grown up. These are two friends who learning along with — and from — each other that getting older in years is not the same as growing up.
Fans of HerStories, even those closer to middle age or retirement age than college graduation, won’t be disappointed.
Enter our giveaway to win a copy of FRIENDSHIP!
Are there other novels about friendship that you’ve recently read?