What was the book about?
This is a non-fiction book about Rachel Bertsche’s search for a new best friend after she moves to Chicago with her newlywed husband. She goes on 52 first friend dates and this book accounts her journey to find a new BFF.
Did you enjoy the book? Why? Why not?
I liked the concept of the book, but not really the execution. The question of How do you find a best friend? is a very relevant and important one, especially to many young professions seeking post-college friendships, but I didn’t connect with the writer and didn’t like her approach.
It all seemed way too forced. She took this search for the new BFF so seriously, it made her seem desperate, like none of her conversations with these women were authentic, she always had an ulterior motive. At times it read like a research thesis on friendships, with boring statistics on the dispositions of people who have more friends than others. She even consulted with a professor on the topic and got his opinion on what she was doing wrong on her friend dates. Too much!
For someone who lived in the same town as her husband, her mom, close cousins, and four close work friends that have lunch almost every day, it seemed like she was doing fine socially. She also mentioned she had multiple best friends in different cities and was busy maintaining those relationships. Maybe I’m just skeptical of people who write non-fiction books these days, but it felt like she had a book deal and needed to go on this journey just to fill up the pages (I felt this way with Happier at Home and Eat Pray Love too, but maybe I’m just a cynical non-fiction reader?).
I also was a little annoyed at how she treated her husband. Between the two book clubs, weekly yoga classes, 52 friend dates on top of working a full-time job, she didn’t seem to value quality time with him at all. She shared a few of their arguments in the book, and I have to admit I was on his side most of the time. I certainly don’t think a husband can substitute for a gal-pal, but I also think cultivating that relationship–especially in the first year of marriage–is a really big deal.
But I still liked the concept of the book, and I share her sentiment about finding an in-town hang-out-at-the-drop-of-the-hat best friend. Y’all, making friends isn’t what it used to be when you bond over snacks in your lunch box in the first grade. Good friends are hard to find, and making a best friend out of school can be a real challenge.
I thought a lot about my friendships while I read this book. Friendships are so important, and different seasons of my life I have had more or less “support system” near where I live. I first moved to DC after graduation and didn’t know anyone but one of my college guy friends. My best friend Allison joined me after two months, but for those first few months it was very lonely and took time to develop friendships with co-workers and neighbors. I also had a similar feeling when I first moved to Raleigh. I moved in with one of my oldest, closest friends from high school and I knew J and his family, but it still took time to get adjusted here and develop my group of friends and who I could call to hang out with on the drop of the hat. Joining a small group and getting involved with our church has been a huge way to make new friends, and I feel like my life here is very settled now and I have a good group of friends both at work and elsewhere. It’s also hard balancing old friendships. I have a handful of friends that I keep up with on a regular basis — girls that I call or text or chat with at least once a week. And then there are old friends that I don’t see or talk to on a regular basis, but when we do finally catch up, we pick up right where we left off. Those are real gems.
This book may not have been my style or the approach I would have taken, but I did like how strongly Rachel valued friendships and truly understood how rare and precious good friendships are. The “best friends” title for me isn’t something you can casually place on friends or seek to fill, I think that has to happen organically and over lots of time. Nevertheless, this book did make me appreciate my friendships and more open about meeting new people.
What’s your favorite quote from the book?
“Popular culture has made it okay to yell “I want a man!” from the rooftops, so why are we still embarrassed to say, “I want a best friend”?”
“Some of the friendships I’ve found as an adult are far more rewarding than those forged out of the convenience of adolescence.”
“According to psychologists Debra Oswald and Eddie Clark’s research, there are four necessary behaviors to make a friendship stick. Self-disclosure, supportiveness, interaction, and positivity.”
“‘It takes a lot of work,’ I say. ‘You’ve got to say yes to all the invitations that come your way. The more you say yes, the more invites you’ll get. You have to follow-up with all those meetings where you say ‘We should totally get together!’ instead of just saying it to sound nice. And signing up for things helps. Oh, and asking for setups. You know, basically all the things you do when you’re dating.’”
Would I recommend this book?
I guess I would recommend this to a girl who just graduated college, has a boyfriend or husband, and is seeking a best friend in a new city.
Have you read the book? What did you like, or didn’t like about it?
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May’s Book: This month we are reading the Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. I’ll be reviewing this Monday June 3rd!