REVIEW: ONE GOOD FRIEND DESERVES ANOTHER BY LISA VERGE HIGGINS

ONE GOOD FRIEND DESERVES ANOTHER

Author: Lisa Verge Higgins
Allen & Unwin RRP $27.99
Review: Monique Mulligan

One Good Friend Deserves Another

I read The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship by Lisa Verge Higgins a couple of years ago and liked it, so I was keen to read her latest offering, One Good Friend Deserves Another. During my adult life I’ve moved around a fair bit (four states) and books about close, long-standing friendships have at times filled the emotional gap created by leaving good friends behind, moving on and starting over. (My closest and oldest friend lives on the other side of the country and we only get to catch up in person for a couple of hours about once a year). After reading the book, I had to ask: do close-knit groups really stay friends for decades or do they inevitably fade as circumstances change?

Dhara, Kelly, Marta, and Wendy have been the closest of friends since college; they’re all very different, but have a bond that seems unbreakable no matter where life leads them. The book opens at the engagement of Dhara to Sudesh (or Desh, as he is later known) – since the marriage is an arranged one, it’s an event that has caught the other three women by surprise because it breaks the first two of their Rules of Relationships:

  1. Choose Your Own Man
  2. Make Sure Your Friends Approve
  3. No One-Night Stands
  4. Trust Your Instincts
  5. Never Make the Same Mistake Twice
  6. After a Break-Up, Wait Six Months Before Dating Again.

The rules were created back in their college days as a means of keeping their hearts safe after a string of heartbreaks. But now, with the women in their mid-30s, are they really relevant? Kelly thinks so, and wants to stage an intervention to save Indian-American Dhara from an arranged marriage. Yet, she is secretly having an affair with the same man who broke her heart years ago – that’s number five broken … and since she’s keeping it from her friends, that’s number two broken as well. Wendy, engaged to the wealthy Parker, is having second thoughts, not just about him, but her whole life as she lives it. Will she break rule three? And then there’s Marta, who discovers her boyfriend is married. Has she broken rule four? Will she break rule six? And what about rule five?  How will breaking the rules affect their friendships?

Reading this book, I did have a couple of issues. One Good Friend Deserves Another jumps from one person’s story to another, with brief flashbacks to that weekend when the rules were created. The flashbacks didn’t work for me at all. I found them confusing and vague and didn’t feel that they added a lot to the story. They were supposed to give context, to explain why the “rules” were made, but I was more interested in why the four women, from such different backgrounds, became friends in the first place. That wasn’t really explained … they just were. Another thing that stood out for me was the focus on “interventions” – it’s quite an American concept. As an Aussie reader, I didn’t quite get why these women, well-meaning as they were, thought it necessary to interfere (interfere/intervene, you say po-tay-to and I say po-tah-to) as a group. It’s not the sort of action I can relate to or see happening often here. Finally, the characters seemed much younger than the mid-30s they were supposed to be. None were married or had children, which seemed a bit unrealistic for that age group. I didn’t have this sense that these women were close in age to me, as they were supposed to have been.

Setting those issues aside, One Good Friend Deserves Another was a nice enough read. It’s light and easy to read – a good book for those times when you want something that doesn’t tax you too much. The characters were likable enough, the situations the women found themselves in were believable enough, and their friendship, well let’s just say they’re lucky to have such strong and abiding connections with each other. All in all, it was, as I said, nice enough. Just not fantastic. It’s one of those books that you enjoy reading at the time, but forget about soon after. What I won’t forget is the poignant reminder that some friends are worth more than gold. I do think women need other women in their lives – more on my thoughts about that here.

The other thing I’ll point out is that all four of the women were relatively independent and well-educated, and the group represented a diverse mix (if politically correct) of cultures. Each of them had issues/hang-ups to do with their upbringing and/or familial expectations. As I read, I was glad they had such good friends to back them up, boost them and make them laugh.

Available from good bookstores and Allen & Unwin. This copy was coutesy of Allen &Unwin.

Bookish treat: Break out all the goodies and PJs for a girls’ only slumber party-style feast.