Best Friends: A NovelUser Review - Not Available - Book Verdict
Moody's first novel examines the dynamics of friendship between two very different women, Clare Ann Mann, a small-town Ohio girl, and Sally Rose, who hails from Los Angeles. Meeting as college ... Read full review
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ISBN 1573229350 - I really, really wanted to like this book. A "valentine to the staying power of women's friendships" sounds like a book that, as a woman, I ought to like. I am still dismayed to realize I basically finished it only because I started it - proving that it is, at least, a valentine to the staying power of my stubborn streak.
Clare and Sally met as roommates in college in 1973 and their friendship spans the rest of their lives, through husbands and kids and divorces and tragedies. Clare is from Ohio, Sally from California. It is Clare, as the voice telling the story, whose point of view the reader sees everything from. She is dazzled by the wealth of Sally's family and by California in general, but that wears off as she finds out the secrets of the Rose family. Each time Clare comes into possession of one of the family secrets, she is tempted to run to Sally with the information, knowing it will ruin Sally's relationships with her family members but not particularly caring - if it helps her keep Sally to herself, it seems to be fine with Clare.
First, there's not a single character in the entire book over the age of 10 that I didn't absolutely despise. That's a problem that the book never gets past, because the storyline isn't good enough. It suffers from an almost ridiculous level of drama - the "crimes" (both legal and moral) of both girls' fathers, the way the various characters die, Clare's not-quite-gay attempts to push everyone else out of Sally's life, it's all just too much to be interesting and becomes laughable. Clare's weird love of her roommate comes out in strange sentences - "...trying to make up for my obvious disappointment at seeing her pregnant again. I couldn't believe it. It was almost more than I could stand, that she and Peter had thrust themselves together again." Who thinks of their friends' pregnancy in those terms? Who even thinks of their friends in those terms at all??
If high drama were the only problem with the storyline, it might not have been as bad... but it's not the only problem. The storyline seems to be summed up with "they met in college and stayed friends all their lives". Big deal, that's not a novel, it's a sentence! Even Clare's dedication to her AIDS patients doesn't do much to make up for the fact that she comes off as a terrible, selfish person surrounded by lots of other terrible, selfish people. The best that can be said of the book is that Moody made excellent use of events (the beginning of AIDS awareness, the OJ trial, the Godfather movies) to set the timeframe clearly for the reader. I'd read something else from her if I came across it, but pass this one by, it's not worth the effort.