Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
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
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?
Most of the friendships in the book center on the
relationships between women. Could the same book have been
written about friendships between men? Are these friendships
built on similar or different foundations? Is one more enduring
than the other?
One of the premises of the book is that these stories
about lost friends are incredibly common yet seldom revealed.
Why do you think such secrecy surrounds this issue? Is there
shame involved when a friendship fails?
Many of the writers in this anthology speak to the
difficulty of unraveling what led to the demise of their
friendships. Why is it so difficult to assess blame and
responsibility in these situations? Which essays most clearly
address this problem of culpability?
In the paired essays "Heather" and "Emily" we get a rare
glimpse of the story of a friendship breakup from both points
of views. In the other essays, were you able to imagine the
absent friend's side of the story as well? Did you ever find
yourself empathizing more with the lost friend than the author?
In Emily White's "Shelter" and Ann Hood's "How I Lost
Her", we never learn why the friends disappear so abruptly.
Imagine their side of the story.
Jenny Offill's "End Days" and Elissa Schappell's "You'll
Be Alright" both describe unlikely friendships. Why might such
a friendship be a source of comfort? Jennifer Gilmore's "The
Kindness of Strangers" goes even further to suggest that
sometimes strangers are able to provide more solace in times of
crisis than old friends. Why might this be the case?
The old saying "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" seems
to apply to the friendship Mary Morris describes in "The Other
Face". How does money affect the power dynamic in a
relationship? Do you agree with Morris' choice not to return
the painting? Why do you think her friend didn't cash the
Kate Bernheimer's essay explores the pain and isolation
that she felt when her friends were able to bear children and
she was not. Why might fertility or the lack thereof be a
divisive issue among women?
This anthology captures a range of friendships that span
from childhood to old age. How have your friendships changed
over the years? Was there a "golden age" of friendship?
What role does friendship play in your life now? Are
your friendships as high a priority as they once were? In your
own life do you have "a friend who got away" or a friend you
now realize you should have cut loose? Describe what happened.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Broadway Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.