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Book by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
Review By Kathy A. Megyeri
We all treasure our close friends but when one moves away, it takes a special and concerted effort to keep the relationship alive, and more often than not, it fades from view. And of course, as we age, our circle of friends narrows as sickness and death take our dearest away forever when we probably need them the most.
Over a lifetime, we’ve no doubt taken our friendships for granted, but rarely have we examined what it really takes to maintain them or to ascertain why some are so valued over others. This book defines “Big Friendship” as a strong, intense bonding that goes beyond geography, aging, emotional and psychological changes and personality differences.
About “Big Friendship”
Two friends with drastically different upbringings; Aminatou Sow, a Black woman, and Ann Friedman, a White woman, hosts of the popular podcast, Call Your Girlfriend, examine their own Big Friendship. Sow is a writer, public speaker and cultural commentator who lives in Brooklyn. Friedman, who lives in Los Angeles, is a journalist, media entrepreneur and contributing editor to “The Gentlewoman.” In this book, they honestly describe their first decade in one another’s lives and frankly discuss the joys and heartbreak they’ve shared.
They hilariously and emotionally describe their deepest feelings for one another, their times of frustration and alienation, their health scares, their firings from dream jobs, their romantic entanglements, their holidays spent together and apart, and their realization that their relationship is both special and unique and also pretty commonplace. Through it all, they’ve repeatedly invested in one another and remained faithful and supportive.
Sure, experts tell us close friendships will add to the quality of life and our own well-being in our later years, but this book asks us to examine our own friendships—how they originated, trials that were weathered together, aspects that make them transformative, vital and loving, battles fought from outside forces in order to stay together, and finally, plans to keep the relationship nourished and preserved, always aware that they can be lost.
Friendships, like marriages, can be lasting and rewarding, but they have to be valued and invested in in order to be maintained. Thanks to this close examination of one particular friendship, we look at our own more deeply and we appreciate the hardships Sow and Friedman went through, even with the help of a therapist, to make their relationship last over time with trials, life changes, distance, personal growth challenges and deep schisms. They understand how work, spouses and children interrupt time originally meant for nurturing friendships and how life’s challenges threaten even the longest and deepest relationships. They conducted extensive research and then applied multiple lessons to their own relationship.
The result is that the reader will examine her own relationships and ask, “How can I be there more for people I love? How can I bring back that person I so cared for, even if life has dealt us both some blows?”
The authors even tackle the difficult aspects of friendship like what if one gives more to the other? How do I make interracial friendships last? What if one wants to end a relationship but the other holds on? How do I cope with a long-term relationship that is changing for whatever reason? And is it really worth it to stay in a complicated relationship for the long haul?
The authors’ concluding mantra is simple: friendship is valuable but not valued, and as we spend more time online and at work, our friendships deserve more support and a greater focus. Aren’t they psychologically as important to us older women as husbands and children?
Because of this book, I’ve found more meaning in my friendships. I’ve vowed to work harder and devote more time to the dearest friends I have because time is flying and I’m losing more of them to illness and death each year, so I want to preserve and strengthen the ones I have. And as the authors describe Big Friendship, it requires active maintenance and it’s reciprocal with both parties feeling worthy of each other and willing to give of themselves in generous ways.
No wonder Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says, “This story of friendship is as universal as it is revolutionary.” Since there are so few resources addressing friendship, and it is so important to the quality of life, I could not help but buy a copy of this book for each of my closest and dearest friends.
But best of all, the reading group guide in the book’s final pages includes discussion questions and authors’ comments which are most helpful for your own book club.