Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summer Friendships

Is summer camp a rite of passage? If so, it's one I missed. But for the six characters in Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings, the bond they form in the 70's at a summer arts camp informs their lives for the next three decades. For Julie Jacobson, who arrives in camp as a suburban nonentity and leaves as 'Jules' with five sophisticated urban new best friends, the camp experience is especially transformative.

The camp has given them all the sense that they are talented and special, destined for extraordinary lives. In the power center of the six are the Wolf siblings Ash (sister) and Goodman (brother). Children of privilege, charismatic, living in Manhattan, they represent for Jules all that she admires and aspires to. But success comes instead to Ethan, the gawky nerd, when he creates a Simpsons-like animated series that brings him artistic and financial success. His marriage to Ash gives her the money and prestige to create a career in feminist theater.

And Jules is jealous. Wolitzer deftly and humorously explores how friendships evolve when success does not bless all equally. She creates no monsters, but gives each character a believable arc in the journey to maturity. More importantly, Wolitzer tracks the ebb and flow of the friendships over a thirty year span with a nuanced hand. She paints them as complicated, conflicted and, yes, interesting.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Girl Scout camp wasn't like this; ditto the camp at Lafayette which I attended reluctantly.