Friday, July 17, 2009

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

I am sad I missed Jennifer Weiner's reading in NYC. She is hysterical in person!  Luckily, I was still able to buy and finish the book the day it came out.  I personally found this book to be incredibly different than Weiner's past works.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, just interesting.  This book does not take place in Philly (most of her previous books do) but instead Chicago. The book is also somewhat less snarky.  In somewhat traditional Weiner fashion there is one formerly overweight character.  So I suppose in that regard Best Friends Forever isn't a huge departure from Weiner's oeuvre.

The book is about two former Best Friends: Addie Downs and Valerie Adler.  Valerie, a meteorologist, finds herself in trouble after she acts questionably after  her high school reunion. She shows up on Addie's doorstep looking for assistance. The two wind up embarking on an adventure of sorts, true to the rhythms of their unique friendship, with Valerie leading Addie out of her overly ordered life and into various sticky situations. The book captures the sense of horror involved in returning to a high school reunion. Many of the former high schoolers individuals find themselves altered (one previous bad boy is a minister), others are still overcoming the traumas of high school (I would put Addie and Valerie in this category).  Both Addie and Valerie have experienced harrowing experiences that have shaped them as individuals and altered the friendship they severed after nine years of best friendship.  The novel is in some ways a mystery - albeit one where the reader knows more than the characters. We are introduced to a Chief of Police who is trying to explain the incidence of blood and a belt in the parking lot of a small town country club.

There is so much to relate to in this book.  I got a kick out of the fact that Addie's parents met at summer camp as mine did as well.  Additionally, I loved the way the story was grounded in history.  Addie's father is a Vietnam vet who is unable to return to the life path he had charted before combat.  Valerie's mother is a hippy of sorts.  The portrayal of high school, full of traumas and celebrations is realistic and entertaining.

The pace of this novel was excellent.  It switches perspective and includes the viewpoint of the detective investigating the blood left behind in the parking lot of the Country Club where the reunion is held.  I think its excellent that Weiner has shown she can write different genres, hopefully this will silence all of the critics who try to squarely place her in the "chick lit" category.

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