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Review: Friendship by Emily Gould

 

 
Overview
 

Highlights: A bittersweet tone and dark sense of humor, plus great banter between the BFFs. You’ll certainly question what friendship really means. (I also adore the cover.)
 
Synopsis: Best friends Bev and Amy are pushing 30 and have failed to achieve the professional and romantic success New York City seemed to promise back in their early twenties. When Bev learns she is pregnant following a one-night stand, they must temper their New York dreams with a dose of reality.
 
Genre:
 
Rating:
 
Plot
B+


 
Writing
A-


 
Characters
B


 
Fun Factor
A-


 
Reading Recommendation
B+


 
Total Score
B+
11/ 14


User Rating
no ratings yet

 

Positives


This seems like a young woman’s book (you can’t avoid comparisons with Lena Dunham’s HBO hit, Girls), but anyone can relate to themes of failure and disillusionment. It’s not your average chick lit.

Negatives


The subplot, involving an older, wealthy couple, seems irrelevant, as does a long flashback to Bev’s time in Wisconsin. The central friendship can get lost within a somewhat predictable plot. “Dude,” “um,” and emoticons are annoyingly common in the dialogue.


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Posted July 28, 2014 by

 
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For your summer reading pleasure, here’s a perfect book to take to the beach, on the train, or to the doctor’s office: Friendship by Emily Gould. It’s just right if you’re a 30-year-old woman, like me and like Gould’s main characters, or if you’re facing first-time motherhood; it’ll be an equally apt choice if you’re broke and questioning your career path, or if you’re unsure of what life is going to bring next and what your purpose in the world might be. In other words, although this seems like a young woman’s book, skirting the edges of the chick lit camp, I’d argue that the bittersweet tone and sly sense of humor will ring true for most people.

Still, the comparisons with Lena Dunham’s HBO hit, Girls, are both inescapable and accurate. However, you might think of Friendship as giving a picture of those characters five to ten years on. Best friends Bev and Amy are pushing 30 and have failed to achieve the professional and romantic success New York City seemed to promise back in their early twenties when, fresh-faced, they set off from home looking for adventure. When Bev Tunney left Minnesota, her dream was to become a writer, but now, recovering from a disastrous relationship, she has deferred her MFA program and temps for agencies instead.

friendship gouldIt was as a temp for a publishing company, in fact, that she met Amy Schein, a Jewish princess from suburban Maryland. Amy (who is pretty obviously a stand-in for Gould here) was an online gossip columnist before moving to Yidster, a pop culture website designed to appeal to young, hip Jews in the City. Anyone who has ever worked a mindless job will recognize Amy’s “sense of great urgency – not because she was eager to get to work, but because she was eager to get through her fifteen minutes of work and then get on with her life.” One day, unable to face another day of composing moronic ‘Yid Vids,’ she quits. Unfortunately, this means that she is unemployed just when her artist boyfriend is leaving for Spain and her landlord decides to raise the rent. “She still couldn’t quite believe that this was where she’d ended up.”

I could relate to these two penniless, disillusioned friends’ feelings of envy and incomprehension when faced with “people who seem to know what their spot in the world is and inhabit it comfortably.” Two such people are Sally and Jason, a married couple for whom Bev and Amy housesit one weekend. They’re only about ten years older, but they seem to have it all together: a gorgeous home out in the countryside, successful artistic careers, and money to show for it. For Bev and Amy, it’s a glimpse of everything they think they will never attain. Except Sally and Jason’s relationship is not as perfect as it appears. Their lives become intertwined with Bev and Amy’s in rather strange ways. I won’t give too much away, except to say that the Sally and Jason subplot, to me, felt formulaic and unnecessary.

The book can lose its way a bit when the two main characters are apart: a long flashback to Bev’s attempt to live with boyfriend Todd in Madison, Wisconsin is tedious; and Amy’s return to Maryland hampers the pace. I liked it best when the BFFs were together (either in real life or online) and trading banter. Although I was slightly annoyed by all the instances of “dude” and “um” in their speech, it does sound authentic and natural. Their language also points to the fact that, at age 30, they’re still acting like they’re in their early twenties. It’s a mark of arrested development in these ‘starter lives’ of theirs: they’re still missing out on those traditional badges of maturity people their age are meant to have earned, namely stable salaries and relationships.

Really, what Gould does best, and what I wanted more of, was simply what the title suggests. The friendship between Bev and Amy is the bedrock, but can sometimes get lost in the workings of the plot. Here are two people who can be completely honest with each other; “they were allies in a world full of idiots and enemies.” When Bev learns she is pregnant from a one-night stand, Amy starts to withdraw from her, and other friendships spring up to threaten the primacy of their own. There’s Bev’s odd relationship with Sally, plus Amy’s ex-colleague Jackie (“it was refreshing to be around someone who, for whatever misguided reason, admired her and wanted her approval”) and Allie, Bev’s college acquaintance.

So what constitutes a friendship? In one of my favorite passages, Bev says to Amy,

“I don’t want money. Well, not from you. I want you to think about me. Call me, text me. Be curious about what’s going on with me, not just use me to unload all your bad feelings, like I’m your therapist. I need you to care about me, not resent me.”

(Take that as a cue to rethink what you’ve been using some of your own friendships for!)

Author Emily Gould photographed in Los Angeles, California, 2014.

From the author’s Goodreads page.

Especially in the post-college years, when we aren’t often thrown into situations in which relationships naturally develop, it can be easy to think of friendship as a bonus, a luxury, rather than a necessity. “I already have loads of ‘friends’ on Facebook,” you might think. “Why would I need any more?” But this novel reminded me of a few things: life is hard, or at least pointless-seeming at times, and we all need a little support. Real, intimate friendships are so rare that they must be nurtured and prized.

Gould is known as a tell-all blogger; she was a former co-editor of Gawker.com gossip website and published an autobiographical essay collection, And the Heart Says Whatever, in 2010. Co-owner of independent e-bookstore Emily Books, Gould is from suburban Maryland and now lives in Brooklyn. Friendship is her first work of fiction, and in some ways it shows. But I suspect that if you can tolerate a bit of froth both on your cappuccino and in your summer reading, you’ll ♥ this book.

 

 

Friendship: A Novel


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Rebecca Foster

 
American transplant to England. Former library assistant turned full-time freelance writer and book reviewer. Check out all my articles.


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