Common Threads: Stories of Female Friendship

We are living in an age where female friendship is “in” – between Taylor Swift’s squad of celebrity gal pals and Lena Dunham’s acclaimed TV show “Girls,” to the legions of Millennial women who idolized four fabulous friends on “Sex & the City” – it’s everywhere you look.

But stories of best friends forever and female dynamic duos have been around for years; some of the most famous ones are in books. For children of the 80s and 90s, perhaps you devoured Ann M. Martin’s hit series, “The Baby-sitters Club.” Or maybe it was the popular “Sweet Valley Twins” series, that followed Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield from their tweens into college, through boyfriends and best friends turned enemies and murder mysteries.

In college, I read Ann Patchett’s heart-wrenching tribute to her best friend, the late writer Lucy Grealy, “Truth & Beauty.” Her moving memoir perfectly captures the emotional highs and lows that come with a decades-long commitment between friends. Patchett recently spoke on the “Dear Sugar” podcast about female friendship and the deep devotion it can inspire, as well as some other, less attractive qualities, such as jealousy, control, and disappointment. I think we can all relate.

In recent years, I read Marilyn French’s “The Women’s Room” and Mary McCarthy’s “The Group.” Both novels address how women rely on each other to get through life’s obstacles, such as marriage, divorce, college, career, and death. When facing a sexist society and all number of barriers against them, the women in these books learn how to make their own way in the world, with the help of each other.

Perhaps one of my favorite books on female friendship is Rebecca Wells’ “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood,” about four women who grew up together in Louisiana. Sure, I loved it because I’m also from Louisiana, but I was enthralled by the stories of Vivi, Caro, Necie, and Teensy, sticking together through war, alcohol abuse, marriages and children, illness, and more. The Richmond Times-Dispatch said of the novel, which was made into a movie starring Gena Rowland, Maggie Smith, and Sandra Bullock: “Mary McCarthy, Anne Rivers Siddons, and a host of others have portrayed the power and value of female friendships, but no one has done it with more grace, charm, talent, and power than Rebecca Wells.”

And while Lucy M. Montgomery was Canadian, I would be remiss to not mention her classic “Anne of Green Gables,” in which our loveable red-haired heroine finds a bosom buddy in Diana Barry and is always on the lookout for more women to add to her circle of kindred spirits.

No matter your age or interests, there is no shortage of stories that focus on the profound impact of female friendships and how they can change our lives for the better, forever.

-Jenna Sauber

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