Summary and book reviews of The Friend Who Got Away by Jenny Offill

The Friend Who Got Away

By Jenny Offill, Elissa Schappell

The Friend Who Got Away
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  • Hardcover: May 2005,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: May 2006,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

Losing a friend can be as painful and as agonizing as a divorce or the end of a love affair, yet it is rarely written about or even discussed. The Friend Who Got Away is the first book to address this near-universal experience, bringing together the brave, eloquent voices of writers like Francine Prose, Katie Roiphe, Dorothy Allison, Elizabeth Strout, Ann Hood, Diana Abu Jabar, Vivian Gornick, Helen Schulman, and many others. Some write of friends who have drifted away, others of sudden breakups that took them by surprise. Some even celebrate their liberation from unhealthy or destructive relationships. Yet at the heart of each story is the recognition of a loss that will never be forgotten.

From stories about friendships that dissolved when one person revealed a hidden self or moved into a different world, to tales of relationships sabotaged by competition, personal ambition, or careless indifference, The Friend Who Got Away casts new light on the meaning and nature of women's friendships. Katie Roiphe writes with regret about the period in her life when even close friends seemed expendable compared to men and sex. Mary Morris reveals how a loan led to the unraveling of a lifelong friendship. Vivian Gornick explores how intellectual differences eroded the bond between once inseparable companions. And two contributors, once best friends, tell both sides of the story that led to their painful breakup.

Written especially for this anthology and touched with humor, sadness, and sometimes anger, these extraordinary pieces simultaneously evoke the uniqueness of each situation and illuminate the universal emotions evoked by the loss of a friend.

Torch Song
Katie Roiphe

My memory of Stella, at nineteen, is neither as crisp nor as detailed as it should be. It's only with a tremendous effort of will that I can bring her into focus at all. She is wearing a complicated black outfit that looks like rags pinned together with safety pins, and black stockings, with deliberate runs laddering her legs. Her skin is translucent, the color of skim milk, and her matted, dyed blond hair looks about as plausibly human as the hair of a much loved doll. Under her eyes are extravagant circles, plum colored and deep. She always looks haggard. No one that age looked haggard the way she looked haggard. And yet, as one came to know her, that was part of her romance.
...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The Friend Who Got Away's epigraph comes from Virginia Woolf who wrote a great deal about the intricacies of human relationships. What does she seem to be saying about the nature of friendship?

  2. Why do we assume friendships should be "sturdier" than romantic relationships? What expectations do we bring to a friendship that we don't bring to a romance? Are these realistic? Why or why not?

  3. Most of the friendships in the book center on the relationships...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Booklist - Whitney Scott

By breaking the silence about failed friendship so literately, this book appeals to many more readers than just students of interpersonal psychology.

Kirkus Reviews

In their mixed-bag but mostly captivating anthology, 20 women reflect on amities that have ended.....One wishes that more of the authors had moved from straightforward autobiography to reflection on the nature of friendship.....A book to savor, despite its imperfections. But think twice before giving it to your best friend.

Library Journal - Wye Mills

All but one of the stories relate to friendships between two women, and though sex and romance often figure in, only one story centers on a homosexual relationship. Readers will certainly look for their own experiences in these finely written selections, commissioned especially for this book, and perhaps gain insight into their own losses.

Publishers Weekly

Montaigne said friendship "feeds the spirit"; the same applies to this engrossing collection.

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