In The Girls from Ames, Jeffrey Zaslow gives us a lovely picture, in both words and photos, of enduring friendships that have carried nearly a dozen women (Karla, Kelly, Marilyn, Jane, Jenny, Karen, Cathy, Angela, Sally, Diana, and Sheila) through thick and thin. Zaslow's storytelling in The Girls from Ames is a perfect example of first-rate lifewriting. Not only do we get a glimpse into the long history of the girls' friendships, from grade school to their 40's. We begin to see how their town, families, and experiences shape their friendships, then how their friendships shape and enrich their lives. All the while, our lives and experiences are enriched by the telling of theirs. I lost track of how many times I dog-eared a page or noted a passage because it reminded me of one of my own friends or offered a new view of a friendship.
I wasn't sure what to expect from the book, especially after reading on the jacket notes that the author is a journalist. I was worried that an intricate web of relationships would be reduced to a dry, factual litany of causes and effects. But Zaslow's narrative is so compelling that I couldn't put it down. Zaslow reduces what must have been scads of material into only twenty chapters. I have to admit that when I picked up the book, I thought it would be too long; but, I got to the end of those twenty chapters wishing there were more.
This book holds so many small insights and reminders that I am still feeling a buzz of nostalgia about the special women in my life. By themselves, life stories can be interesting studies of society and the human condition. What makes life stories powerful is when we see our own experiences and selves reflected in them. And isn't that unique quality of honest and compassionate mirror what makes both our stories and our friends such treasured gifts? Don't miss The Girls from Ames.
Jeffrey Zaslow is an American journalist and columnist for the Wall Street Journal. He also recently co-authored The Last Lecture with Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor. Zaslow lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan, with his family. Zaslow won the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award in 2000 for his work as a columnist. Find out more about Jeffrey Zaslow on his website. Find out more about The Girls from Ames on the book website.
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