Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Book Review: The Best of Friends: Two Women, Two Continents, and One Enduring Friendship, by Sara James and Ginger Mauney

This dual memoir was a pleasantly engaging surprise. I wasn't sure what to expect when I checked it out of the library, because I sometimes find relationship-writing to be melodramatic and, frankly, entirely self-serving, but this book was much more than that. Sara, who has risen to become a prominent figure at NBC News, and Ginger, who went from being a professional Girlfriend Sidekick to a National Geographic documentarian, have chronicled their lives and friendship from their childhood in Richmond (this part is more filled-in than given in blow-by-blow detail) to the present day, when one now lives in NYC and the other in Africa.

Since both have enjoyed incredible success, that in itself would be interesting enough to make reading a book by either individual interesting, but by combining their professional stories and intertwining their relationship throughout, the story is really more than the sum of its parts. One of the things I liked best about the book was the alternating method of storytelling used by the authors; each tells their part of the story for a chapter, relating their own lives as well as their reactions to and conversations with each other, and then the other takes over for the next chapter. It gave me just enough information about each of them in that particular time of their life to keep me interested before moving on to the other side. The transitions between the two sides were surprisingly seamless. Also, they skip over periods where life was more stable rather than feeling that they need to detail every iota of their lives, backfilling pertinent information where necessary.

There were a few times when I felt like skimming over points that seemed to be slightly repetitive, but it was very interesting to read about these two fascinating women and their evolution from regular smallish-town girlhood friends to vastly different but equally exciting lives. In the end, the book was indeed more about the value and necessity of friendship than was about the two of them individually. I think it's so important that we stop and remember the incredible gift that our friends are to us, and it always saddens me to see that so many people use our newfound technology to distance themselves rather than bring them together. We're all so wrapped up in doing so much that it's easy to leave other behind. I love that this book showed that even for the busiest, and sometimes most unreachable people in the world (Ginger spent many years living in the bush in Africa), this kind of intimacy is still possible.