BEST FRIENDS

THE PLEASURES AND PERILS OF GIRLS' AND WOMEN'S FRIENDSHIPS

You wouldn’t wish the best friends described by these psychotherapists on your worst enemy. To give them credit, Apter (currently a fellow at Cambridge Univ.; Secret Paths, 1995, etc.) and Josselson (Psychology/Towson State Univ.; Revising Herself, 1996), both experts in women’s psychology, set out to add perspective to the recent spate of books and movies celebrating women’s friendships. They seek a context “that neither idealizes . . . nor denigrates” such relationships. Girls and women can form rewarding and enduring connections, the authors say, but those relationships can also be hurtful and damaging. They discount recent research attributing preadolescent girls’ diminishing self-esteem to societal pressure and suggest instead that “the worst anguish . . . is learned in the neglected but indelible doings with girlfriends.” What follows, despite the authors— attempts at nuanced understanding of why girls fail each other and lessons to be learned, is a litany of anecdotes about cruelty, jealousy, fickleness, and fear. From here on the authors’ own recollections and the agonies of Tanya, Wilma, Rose, Angie, Robin, Della, and Quinisha regarding “the friendship wars” takes over. Ninth graders Wendy and Janet spent every Saturday afternoon together, until one Saturday Wendy had to visit a “sick aunt.” Sure enough, riding a bus that afternoon, Janet spotted Wendy window shopping with schoolmate Sandra. (The story, incidentally, is told by a now 40-year-old Janet.) Thirteen-year-old Rowena listens in on a phone conversation between her best friend and another girl. Rowena is dissed. Clare Boothe Luce’s The Women is but one stereotypical scenario that comes to mind. Boys are stereotyped as well, depicted as solving their relationship problems on the playing field. The authors do go on to suggest that female friendships provide support and understanding that can’t be found elsewhere. The thesis that the turmoil of the adolescent friendship dance is valuable in both learning about relationships and defining self is valid, but this description of female best friends is likely to make misogynists of us all. (For a different look at women’s friendships, see Nina Barrett, The Girls, p. 861.)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1998

ISBN: 0-609-60116-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

THE ESCAPE ARTIST

Fremont (After Long Silence, 1999) continues—and alters—her story of how memories of the Holocaust affected her family.

At the age of 44, the author learned that her father had disowned her, declaring her “predeceased”—or dead in his eyes—in his will. It was his final insult: Her parents had stopped speaking to her after she’d published After Long Silence, which exposed them as Jewish Holocaust survivors who had posed as Catholics in Europe and America in order to hide multilayered secrets. Here, Fremont delves further into her tortured family dynamics and shows how the rift developed. One thread centers on her life after her harrowing childhood: her education at Wellesley and Boston University, the loss of her virginity to a college boyfriend before accepting her lesbianism, her stint with the Peace Corps in Lesotho, and her decades of work as a lawyer in Boston. Another strand involves her fraught relationship with her sister, Lara, and how their difficulties relate to their father, a doctor embittered after years in the Siberian gulag; and their mother, deeply enmeshed with her own sister, Zosia, who had married an Italian count and stayed in Rome to raise a child. Fremont tells these stories with novelistic flair, ending with a surprising theory about why her parents hid their Judaism. Yet she often appears insensitive to the serious problems she says Lara once faced, including suicidal depression. “The whole point of suicide, I thought, was to succeed at it,” she writes. “My sister’s completion rate was pathetic.” Key facts also differ from those in her earlier work. After Long Silence says, for example, that the author grew up “in a small city in the Midwest” while she writes here that she grew up in “upstate New York,” changes Fremont says she made for “consistency” in the new book but that muddy its narrative waters. The discrepancies may not bother readers seeking psychological insights rather than factual accuracy, but others will wonder if this book should have been labeled a fictionalized autobiography rather than a memoir.

A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982113-60-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A highly readable account of how solid research and personal testing of self-help techniques saved a couple's marriage after...

HOW NOT TO HATE YOUR HUSBAND AFTER KIDS

Self-help advice and personal reflections on avoiding spousal fights while raising children.

Before her daughter was born, bestselling author Dunn (Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask, 2009, etc.) enjoyed steady work and a happy marriage. However, once she became a mother, there never seemed to be enough time, sleep, and especially help from her husband. Little irritations became monumental obstacles between them, which led to major battles. Consequently, they turned to expensive couples' therapy to help them regain some peace in life. In a combination of memoir and advice that can be found in most couples' therapy self-help books, Dunn provides an inside look at her own vexing issues and the solutions she and her husband used to prevent them from appearing in divorce court. They struggled with age-old battles fought between men and women—e.g., frequency of sex, who does more housework, who should get up with the child in the middle of the night, why women need to have a clean house, why men need more alone time, and many more. What Dunn learned via therapy, talks with other parents, and research was that there is no perfect solution to the many dynamics that surface once couples become parents. But by using time-tested techniques, she and her husband learned to listen, show empathy, and adjust so that their former status as a happy couple could safely and peacefully morph into a happy family. Readers familiar with Dunn's honest and humorous writing will appreciate the behind-the-scenes look at her own semi-messy family life, and those who need guidance through the rough spots can glean advice while being entertained—all without spending lots of money on couples’ therapy.

A highly readable account of how solid research and personal testing of self-help techniques saved a couple's marriage after the birth of their child.

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-26710-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

more