Book Reviews


A new memoir explores one woman's life through her friendships with other women. It's called "She Matters: A Life in Friendships," by Susanna Sonnenberg. And Meg Wolitzer has our review.

MEG WOLITZER: You know how sometimes in life you make a friend, and at first it's really intense? You talk with your heads close together. You try to tell her everything about yourself over tea and white wine. And you think that all that sharing will make you close forever, but it doesn't really work that way. Friendships change a lot. And I think books can be like that, too. They can shift and then you have all these complicated feelings when you have to adjust your expectations.

I feel this way about Susanna Sonnenberg's memoir, "She Matters: A Life in Friendships." Her descriptions totally drew me in, like this friend from summer camp. She stood next to me and we held in our stomachs when Greg La Rosa ambled by and said, hi. She explained marshmallow spread as we sat down with trays of Fluffernutter sandwiches. Sonnenberg tells us, she made me a peach-pit ring and I made her a peach-pit ring. On my last day we said, how can I live without you?

It's like Judy Bloom perfection. When Sonnenberg gets older, she realizes some of her friends can live without her. There are some really bad breakups in this book. One is her college roommate from 25 years ago sends her a letter. What she remembered of our acquaintance was that she hated me, Sonnenberg writes.

Another time she has a relaxed lunch with a friend and then gets this email that's so blunt it's like a wartime telegram. I can't be friends with you anymore, it says. I felt sad for her. She has this really amazing lack of vanity that I loved, even if I was a little taken aback by her intensity.

She actually made me wonder about my own friendships. If I wrote them all down like this, would they look this fraught?

At first I thought the memoir was basically a beautifully written, emotional and nostalgic look at the way women become friends. In the end, it's also really a book about boundary issues. But in between is where all the meat is. It's the part that makes you question what a friend really is. You're not related to them and you're not married to them. So what exactly do you owe each other? What are the rules? Susanna Sonnenberg doesn't answer that.

But she has written something that manages to interest, to exhaust, to impress and, yes, to matter.


BLOCK: Susanna Sonnenberg's new memoir is "She Matters: A Life in Friendships." Our reviewer is Meg Wolitzer. Her most recent novel is "The Uncoupling." For more news about books you can visit our NPR book page on Facebook.

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