The path to true adulthood has twists, and life regularly forces a change of direction on you. And sometimes, when that happens, you need a break from even your best friend. Emily Gould’s novel “Friendship” describes the winding paths Bev Tunney and Amy Schein follow. Bev and Amy are friends, the kind of friends you find first as a teenager and then develop in college: the ones who support you through the first jobs, the bad boyfriends and messy breakups, and the fights with your parents. Eventually, if all goes according to plan, you go to their weddings and they come to yours, and then, very possibly, you grow apart. You have to: spouse, babies, jobs, they all take time.
What makes the Amy and Bev’s friendship, and the novel, so entertaining is that things aren’t going quite according to plan: both are approaching 30. Amy’s career appears to be on a downward trajectory, after some initial success. Bev’s has flatlined – she’s temping. Amy has a boyfriend and her own apartment; Bev has roommates. They do have time for adventure, and one of their adventures is agreeing to house-sit in the perfect upstate house, one that belongs to Sally and Jason. Sally and Jason’s relationship seems to be every bit as polished and presentable as their house, except for one thing: they have been unable to have children.
A pair of events force Amy and Bev out of their extended adolescence: Amy’s boyfriend, Sam, accepts a two-month residency in Spain and at about the same time, Bev realizes she’s pregnant after a one-night stand. (The standee is a perfectly nice guy, in Gould’s description, but Bev has no interest in him.) Bev considers first the morning-after pill (but passes once she realizes she can’t afford it, and figures the chances of pregnancy from one encounter are slim) and then decides first on an abortion and then, once Sally has said she will “help,” to keep the baby. Calculation of costs is not an area of strength for these two, though even Bev and Amy can see that such a loose arrangement will cause trouble. Bev decides to go ahead anyway. The consequences of that decision, for Bev, for Sally, for Amy, and for Bev and Amy’s friendship, play out through the rest of this satisfying novel.
“Friendship” is a nice parody of several aspects of modern life. Amy works at a startup blog, whose owners, a pair of siblings with two much money and time, send a lot of emails about things like SEO optimization that often contradict their emails from the week before. Sally and Jason, who at first seem secondary to the story, become central to it, offering Gould an opportunity to tweak overly precious design mavens: Jason is the editor-in-chief of “an international design magazine” who spends his free time in the basement building small scale replicas of his carefully-selected furniture. The tangling that results when Sally and Jason meet Bev and Amy becomes a catalyst that results in change for all four. “Friendship’s” ending is by no means a symmetrical outcome, but it is a satisfying one.
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