The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow

I had quite a few thoughts I wanted to share about this book right when I finished reading it, but now that almost 2 weeks have passed, I’m having a hard time rememberimg all of my thoughts. Did I like this book? No, I didn’t. However, it’s not that it was a bad book, I just think it wasn’t for me. One issue, I think, is that for whatever reason I went into this book thinking it would be a fun fiction book – it was non-fiction…And although as a woman, I did relate to some things in the book, I wondered if someone from the generation of the girls in this book or even someone from a small town might appreciate this more.

The author, Jeffrey Zaslow, is a man – obviously. He makes a case at the beginning of the book that there are a lot of benefits to a man writing a book about 11 female friends. That may be true – he did ask a lot of questions that I’m not sure a woman would have asked and threw in some interesting statistics that I’m not sure a woman would have felt went with the flow of the story. He argued that he would be more objective as a man and I think that may have been true. So there were good things about this book being written by a man, but at the same time it was painfully obvious that it was written by man. It was written by an outsider who really tried to express the bond he saw in the group and explain the dynamics, but ends were left open that women would have wanted closed to complete the story and there was a sense of disconnect, for me anyway.

The book itself was about 11 girls who had been friends, some since elementary school, but all since high school. They have retained their bond over the years as they are now in their forties and live across the U.S. Although there were some interesting moments and one heart-breaking chapter, this was not a book about some extraordinary group of people. These were girls who had formed a click in high school and maintained it into adulthood. Sociologically it was kind of an interesting study…For the average reader it was a bit difficult to keep up with 11 different girls and some where given much more time in the book than others.

I know, so much of this is my opinion. And everyone brings their own opinion of what friendship looks like. I guess this book is about these 11 women and their friendship and I think they would tell me that I wouldn’t be able to connect with it because most people can’t connect with maintaining friendships that long with a relatively larger group of people and I don’t think they would care that I didn’t connect – they felt like their group was really special, and in a way it is I guess. I did think the effort they make to get together on a regular basis is very admirable.

I guess I was struck a little too by the fact that Zaslow had received letters from so many groups of friends and that this is the one that he picked…I am surprised this was the best one, the one that he felt like was amazing enough to write a book about. I know this ‘review’ has been a bit choppy and negative. It wasn’t my favorite book, not even one I would recommend, but it is a bestseller. Perhaps it has its niche and I’m just not in it. But there its…I read it, I finished, I talked about it with a group of other women, and there you have it…

I give it 2 Stars (I didn’t like it, but I finished so that means I didn’t hate it!)

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