Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Girls from Ames: Review and Giveaway


"My friends are my estate."
~Emily Dickinson
Early in life, I discovered the joys of friendship. I had a best friend starting in second or third grade, a girl named Patricia who lived in my neighborhood. Our first meeting was outside of a pet store, where we'd both stopped to admire some puppies playing in the window, while walking home from school one afternoon. We became inseparable friends after that, spending time together at school and outside of school. More often than not over the years, I've had a best friend, a deep friendship that lasted a year or two (or until I made a new best friend). While I don't belong to a large group of very close friends at this particular point in my life, I do have many female friends, and have been able to reconnect with a majority of my former best friends on Facebook this past year.

Friendship has been very important to me since childhood. However, I honestly didn't know if I'd enjoy reading about other people's friends. Would I find reading The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women & a Forty-Year Friendship tiresome? I grew up in NYC--could I relate to a story about growing up in Ames, a small, college-town in Iowa, filled with cornfields? Were the girls boring goody two-shoes? I wasn't sure if this book would truly hold my interest.

Published in 2009, The Girls from Ames was written by Jeffrey Zaslow, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, who also coauthored the inspirational book The Last Lecturewith Randy Pausch, which I read and reviewed. The book began because one of the Ames girls, Jenny, sent Jeffrey an email in 2003 about her group of friends. Three years later, he started an enormous project: to write a book about eleven girls with a forty-year friendship.
"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."
~Anais Nin
The author introduces each girl--Karla, Kelly, Marilyn, Jane, Jenny, Karen, Cathy, Angela, Sally, Diana, and Sheila--and provides a bit of family background. Most of the girls met each other in kindergarten or first-grade, and have stayed in touch in spite of moving from Ames to eight other states (all but one left Iowa), and starting their own families and careers.
"Friendship doubles our joy and divides our grief."
~Swedish proverb
Throughout four decades, the Ames girls have remained very supportive of each other. Although they no longer live close to each other, they stay in touch through email and other means, get together for special events in their lives, such as weddings, have reunions, and celebrate the joys in the group, such as children born to members of the group. They also experience their share of sorrows, of death and illness, including cancer. (Why are so many relatively young women getting cancer--or is it just early detection? I have many friends and acquaintances who are cancer survivors.)

The Ames girls are not goody two-shoes, and were as adventurous as I was while growing up. Many of the girls are quite frank and talk about the past and present in candid terms--about boys, cornfield "keggers", men, marriage, divorce, jobs, depression, children--and openly reveal their feelings. I'm of the "same vintage", more or less, as the Ames Girls, so I could relate to a lot in this book. I cried near the end of Chapter 7, The Intervention, and at other parts of the book as well. I really felt the connection between these women, and as I became immersed in their stories, I thought about my own friendships over the years. Like the girls from Ames, I recognize the importance of celebrating special moments; this year I've been attending birthdays lunches for a group of about ten women (some of whom I don't know that well yet, but friendship takes time to develop and ripen). For me, friendship is an absolutely essential part of a healthy life, and I read the book with an eye toward how I could improve the quality of my own friendships, and help my children flourish in this area of life.

As a journalist, the author realizes the value of presenting honest stories about real people, and I was totally absorbed by this book. The events in The Girls from Ames are even more touching because they are true, and the book is wonderfully written, and quite humorous at times. If friendship is a subject near and dear to your heart, then this book is for you.

Terrific news! Penguin Group is generously offering a copy of The Girls from Ames as a giveaway (U.S./Canada only).

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For an extra entry, leave a comment about the role of friendship in your own life, or a favorite quote about friendship.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

Enter by 5 PM PDT on Thursday, May 6. The winner will be selected randomly and announced on Friday, May 7. You can also enter a different giveaway to win multiple copies of this book for your book club, so keep reading!

Special thanks to Lisa from TLC and Penguin Group for sending me The Girls from Ames. While reading this book, I thought it would be a great choice for book clubs. (I am not a member of a book club, although this book makes me wish I were.) If you take a few moments to register your book club with TLC by April 30, you could win up to 10 copies of this book in TLC's Book Club of the Month contest, a new feature at TLC! For more reviews of this book, visit the other stops on TLC's book tour for The Girls from Ames. To "meet" the Ames girls, please visit the official website for The Girls from Ames.

This book counts toward the Women Unbound Reading Challenge hosted by Aarti, Care, and Eva.

39 comments:

  1. This book sounds wonderful to me. I only have 2 friends that I'm still in touch with from childhood. I really value friendship since we move around so much - I feel like I'm always working to make new friends, so those I already have mean the world to me. I'd love to be entered in your great contest. I subscribe in Google Reader. milou2ster(at)gmail.com

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  2. Very cool review, Suko! I read a book like this a couple of years ago called The Necklace. If you haven't tried that one, you would probably like it! I would love to be entered in your giveaway, so please count me in!!

    zibilee(at)figearo(dot)net

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  3. I think this would be a great read! Thank you for hosting!

    freda.mans[at]sympatico.ca

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  4. Never explain yourself: your friends don't need it and your enemies won't believe it.

    - Victor Grayson -

    freda.mans[at]sympatico.ca

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  5. A faithful follower.

    freda.mans[at]sympatico.ca

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  6. tweet; http://twitter.com/fredalicious/status/12646197747

    freda.mans[at]sympatico.ca

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  7. This does sound Suko, great review. I do agree, friendship is part of a healthy life. I enjoy reading stories about friends.
    As for my own thoughts on friendship, I think good friends are a blessing and can be therapuetic. I take a Zumba class at the gym once a week with a good friend of mine, and not only is it a healthy workout, we get to have a great laugh as we are bopping around dancing for an hour :)
    please enter me, thanks! naidascrochetATyahoo.com

    http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

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  8. This book sounds really good. I would love to win a copy.
    amandarwest at gmaildotcom

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  9. What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies. -- Aristotle
    amandarwest at gmaildotcom

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  10. I'm a follower.
    amandarwest at gmaildotcom

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  11. No need to enter me, babe. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

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  12. Wow, what a great review. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book- it sounds really wonderful. I left my hometown after high school and only have a Christmas card relationship with a couple of friends. We are FB friends now, although I wish we'd had Facebook and email back then.. it would have been so much easier to maintain those friendships.

    Thanks so much for being on the tour and for all the time you put into reading/writing about The Girls From Ames. We appreciate it so much!

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  13. Thanks for all the varied responses! I've enjoyed reading the comments, and welcome more.

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  14. This one looks good. Thanks for the giveaway.
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

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  15. I still am in touch with a couple of friends from high school...one lives nearby and I see her often, the others are far away but easily contacted via email.
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

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  16. blog follower via GFC
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  17. This sounds like a very interesting book-I will be on the look out for it here in Manila

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  18. Please count me in for this.

    Thank you for hosting

    mystica123athotmaildotcom

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  19. I'd love to win this book! Thanks for the giveaway!

    Oh I have the greatest friends, Tina and Erin I talk to the most and thats like all the time!! lol W/O them my life would be so boring. I think I'm a great listener especially with my friend Tina, who's always going through something. I love my friends!

    I'm a follower

    I posted on FB:http://www.facebook.com/home.php?

    I posted on twitter: http://twitter.com/Romantic73

    chirth7@yahoo.com

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  20. I'd love to enter!Thanks
    nataliew2@gmail.com

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  21. "Friendship is one mind in two bodies". My husband and I are best friends.
    nataliew2@gmail.com

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  22. http://twitter.com/nataliew2/status/12770931455
    Posted on Twitter and Facebook!
    nataliew2(at)gmail(dot)com

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  23. Wow, I think it's awesome that they all stayed friends over so many years. Would love to read about it.

    Thanks! :0)

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  24. I was curious about this book so I was happy to learn some more about it from your terrific review. I'm not sure if I'll end up reading it or not but it does remind me a book called : The Necklace that I read the summer before last (that was enjoyable).

    Have a great week Susan

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  25. Please enter me.

    I know it sounds lame, but my husband is my best friend. He says the same about me, too.

    I follow you w/ Google Reader!

    j.t.oldfield[at]gmail.com

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  26. this looks great thanks for the giveaway minsthins at optonline dot net

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  27. Sounds like a great read. Please include me.

    dlodden at frontiernet dot net

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  28. I'm a follower.

    dlodden at frontiernet dot net

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  29. I have been dying to read this one, thanks for the giveaway!!!

    I have a couple of friends who I honestly don't know what I would do without. I can tell them things that I can't tell anyone else, and trust them to tell me exactly how it is.

    areallibrarian[at]gmail[dot]com

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  30. I would love to enter this giveaway too, if you are posting overseas.

    Thanks,
    Mervat
    x

    ReplyDelete
  31. Please enter me in this giveaway - Thanks!

    seizethebookblog(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  32. I am a follower!

    seizethebookblog(at)gmail(dot)com

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  33. What a fantastic review.

    I am a follower.

    teresasreadingcorner at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  34. Great review! Count me in

    dftrew(At)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  35. I'm a follower

    dftrew(At)gmail(dot)com

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  36. As I have gotten older, I have found it more challenging to maintain my friendships with two college friends - work,kids and life in general get in the way. But every time we get together I am reminded of how much their support and our shared history means to me and I know it is important to prioritize "old" friends!

    Thanks for hosting this giveaway!

    leenbeen2001 (At) yahoo (dot) com

    I am a follower

    ReplyDelete
  37. I'd love a chance at this book.
    For years a group of us that worked together spent a 4/5 day trip to Myrtle Beach together (I hesitate to call us friends as time showed I really didn't know some of them at all). We went every summer and the group fluctuated numbers depending on who was single, pregnant or going through a divorce. I always looked at this trip as a chance to unwind and shed the duties of wife, mother and worker. It was years later that I realized we didn't all see this trip the same way. This book, I imagine, will bring a lot of those memories front and center.
    Thanks for hosting this giveaway for a book that I MUST read this year.

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  38. I love stories of friendship. Please enter me.

    ReplyDelete

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