One will make you laugh, the other will make you cry.
The Long Road Home by Gail Caldwell (you can read an excerpt here) will make you cry. When I visited D.C. for a wedding in September the friend with whom I shared a hotel room had just finished this book and lent it to me for the plane ride home. It's a memoir of a friendship, a best friendship, between two women and of the loss the author feels when her friend dies of cancer. I usually stay away from heavy topics like this in books but I'm so glad I didn't shy away from this one. The writing is beautiful and captures so clearly what it means to have a best friend, it’s worth the sadness. You'll want to call your dearest friends and tell them how thankful you are that they are in your life and you'll remember that there's little more importance in life are those you love. I rarely cry from reading but this book had me streaming tears, practically sobbing…on an airplane sitting next to complete strangers no less. The flight attendant even brought me some napkins and patted my shoulder! Oh geeze. So maybe it's not for reading in public places.
After you wipe your tears away, you'll need a pick-me-up in the form of MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche. This is the true story of a young woman who moves to Chicago to be with her boyfriend. When she realizes that she misses her girlfriends from New York City she decides to go on 52 girl dates to try to find a Chicago BFF. I really did laugh at some of the things this girl went through in the name of making friends - oh the quirky people she met! I related to this book so much and if you've moved to a new city post-college (and you're female) I bet you will too. I loved that the author recognized what she needed in her life and went out to get it. I salute you, proactive people of the world! When I moved to Arizona from Connecticut to be with Chris I knew Chris and his parents, that was my social circle. They're wonderful people, of course, but this was after coming from the very connected social network of my graduate program and living with seven roommates. It was a transition.
It took time, but slowly I made found girl friends and Chris and I made couple friends together. I met friends through bookclub, volunteering, work, Chris's work, and even found a friend next door (although we were introduced through mutual friends!). As the author finds, potential new friends really can be anywhere. I feel so fortunate to have found my women's bookclub within the first months after moving to Arizona. It gave me an easy way to socialize once a month and most of us were in the same situation: new to the area, don't know many people + a love of reading. We’ve gone from being acquaintances to a group of friends over great books (Rules of Civility), terrible books (Feast of Love), and the ups and downs of life in between. Now we even get together for a monthly girls’ night out in addition to bookclub.
As I enter my fifth year in Arizona I see that we have the rich network of friends I was craving when we first moved here. I realize now that these things just take time. But it's hard when you feel lonely and impatient. It was so reassuring to read that my experience isn't unique and that many women are equally interested in striking up a new friendship. At the same time, I'm making sure to keep up friendships with old friends through email, Skype dates, phone dates, and short secret trips. As the girl scout song goes: make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other's gold.