When Rachel Bertsche first moves to Chicago, she’s thrilled to finally share a zip code, let alone an apartment, with her boyfriend. But shortly after getting married, Bertsche realizes that her new life is missing one thing: friends. Sure, she has plenty of BFFs—in New York and San Francisco and Boston and Washington, D.C. Still, in her adopted hometown, there’s no one to call at the last minute for girl talk over brunch or a reality-TV marathon over a bottle of wine. Taking matters into her own hands, Bertsche develops a plan: She’ll go on fifty-two friend-dates, one per week for a year, in hopes of meeting her new Best Friend Forever.
In her thought-provoking, uproarious memoir, Bertsche blends the story of her girl-dates (whom she meets everywhere from improv class to friend rental websites) with the latest social research to examine how difficult—and hilariously awkward—it is to make new friends as an adult. In a time when women will happily announce they need a man but are embarrassed to admit they need a BFF, Bertsche uncovers the reality that no matter how great your love life is, you’ve gotta have friends.
Discovery: In a break from my usual YA spiels, I decided to read this quirky nonfic book on Lindsey Reeder‘s recommendation. I majored in fiction and nonfiction as a creative writing student, so this is right up my alley.
+ Writing style. Fiction, while not always original, lends itself to unique ways of telling a story. Nonfiction? Not so much. Facts can easily become monotonous when delivered in a less-than-lively manner and even funny anecdotes can get old quickly. Rachel Bertsche’s account of her Year of Friendship (caps mine) is snappy and vibrant, keeping the reader entertained and interested. She’s found a balance between great storytelling and solid social/scientific evidence which backs up her experiences. I loved the depth of the research involved–who knew there were so many studies on the nature of friendship?
+ Humour. I like to think I’m pretty good at maintaining a poker face when I’m reading a funny book. After all, it’s a little unsettling when the person next to you on the subway suddenly bursts out into hysterical laughter. But I found myself smiling almost the whole way through this book, and even giggling quietly to myself as I read. Bertsche has an uncanny way of coming up with subtle punchlines that will elicit a grin from even the most reluctant nonfiction reader.
+ Honesty. Here’s where I get a little personal. I’ve lived in three different countries over the last 23 years–the United States, the Philippines and Canada–and friendship is something I’ve always struggled with. It’s hard to make friends when you know your months in a certain place are numbered, and it’s even harder to maintain the relationships you DO manage to form. Strangely enough, I can spend years in a particular place and not make friends until a year before I have to leave. (This has already happened three times.)
While I trust Lindsey’s recommendations, the main reason I wanted to read this book was because I could wholeheartedly understand Bertsche’s dilemma. I graduated from university earlier this year and less than a week later, I was moving (permanently) to another country. Without school, where would I meet new people? Am I going to be the weird 20-something in the corner at the office Christmas party? Reading Bertsche’s book was a poignant experience for me because I’m going through that whole process right now. I may not be a Married White Female, but the uncertainty and insecurity is something most women seem to identify with, and it’s a shame that we don’t feel like we can admit it.
I don’t think this book would have succeeded without Bertsche’s willingness to be so open and honest about her search for a new best friend. While I don’t think I’d ever embark on a quest for a BEST friend (that spot’s been filled for the last six years), I’m definitely up for some great local friends, and her experiences are inspiring. Being an adult is more difficult than any of us realize, and friendships are some of the most valuable things we’ll ever have.
The final say: If you’re thinking about reading nonfiction, definitely give this book a go. Rachel Bertsche has won me over as a reader and I’ll definitely be waiting for her next book with bated breath.
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Categories: Book Reviews