Written by one member of a small group of single, working women, this memoir tells of their friendships, travels and mutual support while a sickly friend confronts death.
As evidenced in this meandering, uneven but nevertheless moving memoir, you don’t need to be famous, rich or a genius to make a difference. Simmons depicts the evolution of relationships among women as one member of the coterie becomes ill. The relationships adapt and change as sickly Mary reaches the end of her life and asks the narrator and other members of their group to act on her behalf in various ways. For her part, the narrator first assumes power of attorney and then acts as the executor of Mary’s estate. Neither woman fully understands what’s involved in these roles, but despite great challenges, Simmons is diligent in carrying out her friend’s wishes. Slightly reshaped for flow, with names changed to help conceal identities, the narrative could use an edit for style and tone—“In her personal commitments, she was on the bus on her way to visit her remaining sister in the convent on weekends and holidays.” Also, sometimes the wildly varying threads are mystifyingly sequenced alongside the main narrative. Subjects include the narrator’s penchant for the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright; the group’s vacations, including travels to the East and West Coasts; various religious beliefs and doubts; the history of nursing in the United States, particularly in New York City; the experience of Slovaks in America; hoarding; and others. The variety of themes and passions in the group can be overwhelming, but it nonetheless makes for a compelling read.
For readers tired of glib, glitzy memoirs with questionable accuracy, this down-to-earth tale of enduring friendship may hit the spot.