I was nine years old when I met my best friend- the same age as Addie Downs(protagonist in Jennifer Weiner’s new novel, Best Friends Forever) when Valerie Adler moves in across the street. Like Addie, I was round and plump, eager to please and slightly fearful of life in general. My friend, J., on the other hand, was more like Val – slender and lanky, stubborn and feisty. Our friendship worked mostly because of my quiescence, for few others girls could handle J.’s rather demanding nature.
Best Friends Forever is one of those novels that see-saws through time, so although the thrust of the action takes place in the present, we see Addie and Val’s friendship evolve from their first meeting as children into their teenage years where they become estranged following an incident during their senior year in high school. Flash forward to the present where Addie, living alone (and lonely) in her parents home in the suburbs of Illinois, is searching for a meaningful relationship. Meanwhile, Val has become a successful television personality at the local station. One night, out of the blue, Val shows up on Addie’s doorstep. “Something horrible has happened,” she tells her long lost friend, “and you’re the only one who can help.”
Reading Weiner’s novel has set me thinking about friendship, why it works and why it doesn’t, the way it changes over time, and the sometimes mysterious way friends move in and out of our lives. My friend J. and I drifted apart rather naturally…we married and had children about the same time, but our adult lives diverged into different interests and circles. Yet, on the morning I learned my parents were getting divorced, she was the first person I called. “What should I do?” I asked, reaching out to the girl who had spent countless days at my house, who my mother often referred to as her “second daughter.” Although we were both adults, we had shared so much of our childhood that it seemed natural to turn to her when that childhood seemed to be disappearing forever.
The connections forged in childhood are quite powerful it seems, for Addie is pulled inexorably into Val’s predicament, tossing aside the wiser instincts of adulthood and plunging headfirst into Val’s scheme to escape the consequences of her current actions. These two women are the perfect example of the way true friends can support one another through all of life’s vicissitudes.
Best Friends Forever came to me courtesy of Simon and Schuster – it’s only the second Weiner novel I’ve read and it’s a perfect read for a summer’s day. The plot line seems a bit contrived in spots – but the characterization isn’t, and I can forgive a less than stellar story line if I become emotionally attached to the characters. I’m only about halfway through, so I plan to spend the rest of my Sunday afternoon with Addie and Val, learning how this adventure of theirs will play out, and if their friendship will stand the test of time this go round.
Now tell me, is there a childhood friend who has drifted in and out of your life? Or one you might like to connect with once again? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Best Friends Forever for your very own. A winner will be chosen at random on Friday, July 31, 2009.