Sunday, March 20, 2011

Friends For Life

The cover of “The Girls from Ames: A story of Women & a Forty-Year Friendship” shows a group a smiling attractive teen aged girls. Jeffrey Zaslow (who is the coauthor of “The Last Lecture”) is the author telling the story of eleven girls from the town of Ames, Iowa who were born in 1963 and have maintained a unique friendship that has spanned forty years. The girls met at different times in the small city that is home to Iowa State University. Some were friends from infancy because their parents were friends, some met in grammar school but by middle school almost all of the eleven were friends. By the time they reached Ames High School they were an established group (clique) of eleven girls.

The book begins as they are meeting for one of their many reunions over the years. Using pictures taken over the years, and memories, their stories take shape. In the beginning of the book it was difficult to keep track of who was who. But in the front of the book there are pictures taken of the girls, one was a grade school photo in the second or third grade and one which appears to be a high school yearbook portrait. I would flip back and forth from the story to the pictures to figure out exactly who was speaking. By the end of the book I had become very familiar with these women.

The book is a part sociology, with many cultural references during that time frame and part biography, as each girl tells her story. It is a microcosm of American culture, “white, middle class females from the mid West during the years 1963 to the present”.

Their stories, especially in the early years, are funny and charming; keggers in the cornfields of Iowa, husking corn in the summer, proms and sleepovers. Over the forty years of friendship the girls have lived through the deaths of their parents, the strange death of one of them, marriages, children, divorce, cancer and coping with Alzheimer’s. There is joy and great sadness in their stories. But mostly this is a story of friendship and how these women rely on one another and have nurtured this bond for over forty years. This story, as a whole and each individual story, showed how important female friendships can be and how friendships can not only shape and sustain us but keep us sane and healthy!

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