BFFs or Mortal Enemies? Ten Books That Explore Female Friendship (Part II)
For me, the stakes in female friendship—and I can only speak as a straight woman here—are just as high or higher than in romantic ones. We trust our women friends with so much intimate knowledge; why is that? Our hairdressers know for sure…isn’t that the truth…but why do we so often share intimacies with strangers if they are of our gender? Why do I still share things with my women friends that I don’t with my husband of twenty-two years? Why is it—for me—that romantic relationships can end in flames, and yes, some very, very bad days—but ultimately the pain doesn’t linger like the loss of a dear female friend?
Below are ten novels, out of hundreds, that explore the agony and ecstasy of female friendship: a force equally likely to raise you up as tear you down.
- The Woman Upstairs
By Clare Messud
6 . A stunning exploration of the invisible woman, the slightly older one who does her smiling and her job, then disappears into her apartment…but the truth is, she—Nora—is pissed off. Very pissed off. And she has a friend, who is actually a fun-mirror sort of friend because she has everything Nora does not: a happy marriage, children, a successful career as an artist. But the “joke” is on Nora: she is blind about using and being used…until the stunning finish of this absolute masterpiece. This book is about love and longing and the extent to which we delude ourselves in our efforts to rationalize relationships that are asymmetrical in prestige, social standing, and commitment. A page-turner that catapults the reader to a conclusion that is unexpected, disturbing, and authentic.
- Fill the Sky
By Catherine Sherbrooke
7. When Ellie’s cancer exhausts the reaches of modern medicine, she travels to Ecuador with Tess and Joline, her lifelong women friends, hoping that the local shamans might offer a miracle. During a tumultuous week marked by bizarre, ancient ceremonies and a betrayal that strains their bond, each woman discovers her own deep need for healing, including the skeptic among them. Fill the Sky is a powerful novel about the complexity of friendship, the power of the spirit, and the quest to not simply fight death, but to shape an authentic life.
- In a Dark, Dark Wood
by Ruth Ware
8. Friendship can be a bitch, especially in Ruth Ware’s world of women friends with long memories and slow-burn revenge plans. Four women and one man go on a hen—a bachelorette shower—out in the middle of nowhere, staying in a glass house that seems to reflect their own terrors as well as expose them to unknown villains lurking in the shadowy woods. But the real heebie-jeebies (for me, anyway) come from a profound examination of how friendships change and morph over time, and the slow reveal of how these changing agendas result in one bloody weekend.
- The Knitting Circle
by Ann Hood
9. In Ann Hood’s gorgeously written and moving novel The Knitting Circle, Mary Baxter’s friends do nothing less than save her life. After the sudden loss of five-year-old Stella to meningitis, Mary walks about in a state of devastation, barely able to function, until her mother suggests she join a knitting group, even though Mary swears she has no interest in any of it. But she finally joins Big Alice’s Sit and Knit and settles in with rest of the gang of knitters: Scarlet, Lulu, Ellen, Beth, and Harriet. At first, Mary is reluctant to share her story, but as each woman teaches her their signature knitting techniques, they also share their own personal stories of love, loss, hope, and recovery, forming a strong bond of healing and friendship that helps Mary start living her life again.
- The Other Typist
by Suzanne Rindell
10. Prim and proper Rose, a police precinct typist in Prohibition-era New York, considers herself a keen judge of character. After all, she’s recorded countless odious confessions and transgressions at a hundred words a minute. But when Rose meets Odalie Lazare, the stunning, sophisticated, fashionable new typist, she happily plunges into Odalie’s world filled with speak-easies, bootleggers, and elite estate parties. But there’s something sinister about Odalie, something just a little bit off. The novel focuses on obsession, the shifting nature of identity and truth, love and temptation, false friendship, and how the influence of others can make us break our own boundaries and codes.