Thursday, April 10, 2008


Clare Mann meets Sally Rose when they are roommates their freshman year at Oberlin. They do not hit it off. As Clare perceives it, they come from completely different worlds--Clare, from a socialist Protestant Ohio family, is a loner with insatiable sexual appetites; Sally, the daughter of a Jewish California millionaire, is socially conservative and almost disgustingly attached to her family. However, they can't overcome their destiny--to be best friends, which they are for the rest of their lives.

From opposite sides of the country, the women talk and visit their way through their young adult lives as Clare becomes a doctor and Sally a lawyer. They navigate failed relationships, death, family dissolution, and domestic and professional disappointments together.

This book was an excellent read. I found myself sneaking away from my colleagues at lunch so I could have a private lunch break and get through it more quickly. It is a natural saga of two women as they grow up, and although Moody has not superimposed a plot arc of any kind--which, in my opinion, helps the authenticity--she does a wonderfully deft job of dropping hints of whatever mini-revelation is coming up next, which really keeps you turning the pages to see how things unfold.

I was complaining not long ago that there don't seem to be many adult books about female friendships (there are several great ones about male friendships). I'm glad I found this one. I find the topic very provocative and am so glad Moody did this beautiful tribute. I particularly liked this moment as Clare is leaving a funeral:

Well, that's life, I thought. It ends. And that's friendship: every friendship has its wobbly moments. Live with it, I told myself. Get used to it. I remembered Sally years before in the car driving west, swirling her hand in that chaotic gesture, saying from now on the deaths would be easier. And I had a true friend, right? Yes, one true friend. A friend of immeasurable value. Because who else but Sally could ever love my prickly nugget of a soul?

I don't normally quote, but there are some really great passages throughout. The language is really excellent--Clare, the narrator, makes an ongoing point that Sally has a gift for precise adjectives, and it's clear that Moody herself doesn't do too badly.

Another passage I really appreciated was Clare's reflection on redemption:

There's this loony idea--American, Christian--that what you do doesn't ultimately matter, that anything can be forgiven and redeemed. I don't buy it. Nothing disappears, nothing is cancelled out. A stain in the wood, meat on the hands, a virus in the cells. These things don't go away. In the end, imperfectly but largely, you reap what you sow. I think in my life that's all I've learned.


Heather Wardell said...

Interesting review! I'm not sure this is my usual kind of thing (I tend to much prefer a 'plot', if you will) but the way you describe it makes it sound worth reading. I will check it out. :)


ChristineEldin said...

I'm definitely going to read this book. I love the premise.

As a woman, I think that strong female relationships are vital to mental health. Whether it's with a mother/sister/friend, whatever, a woman needs another female voice in her life.

((I've read The Gathering which I loved, and also just finished The Kite Runner, which took my breath away. Moonrat, I know you reviewed these two books. I hope to get around to reviewing them soon too.))

moonrat said...

Heather--I know what you mean; in this case, though, there's so much INTEREST that I just kept reading. I didn't mention this in the review, but one of the points that was so interesting to me was that Clare ends up becoming an AIDS specialist. That was one aspect that was of particular interest to me. I won't reveal anything else because I don't want to spoil anything.

Chris, I can't wait to see your reviews!

Lisa said...

You've sold me on this one. Like you, I keep an eye open for books about friendships between women and don't run into them often. This post made me remember that you're the only other person I "know" who liked the aspect of the friendship between two men in RAVELSTEIN as much as I did.

moonrat said...

oh gosh! RAVELSTEIN! I think to all intents and purposes it was not a great "novel" at all, but it was worth it all over for me because of the friendship aspect. That one line at the end made me cry so hard! (Lisa, my guess is you probably know exactly which line I mean...)