Pun fans, rejoice. Lauren Fox‘s new novel, Friends Like Us, is delightful in its depiction of friendship among clever and articulate twenty-somethings. Wordplay abounds. Despite its humor, Friends Like Us is not simply a funny book. Given the sheer number of break-ups, it’s a despairing look at personal relationships.
Protagonist Willa Jacobs and her brother have been scarred by their parents’ divorce. Particularly poignant is Willa’s recounting of the experience as a young adult, of realizing that her father had taken his lover (now his wife) on the European vacation that the family had been saving and planning for. Mom and the kids stayed home. Dad and his girlfriend toured Austria, France and Italy. “Love can be ruthless,” he tells her. “But we do what we have to do. We make our choices.”
Indeed we do. And Willa makes hers. She reconnects with her dweeby high school buddy Ben – now a gorgeous hunk of a guy, but still just as funny, smart and caring as ever – and can’t wait to introduce him to Jane, her best friend. Not surprisingly, the threesome becomes a twosome-plus-one, with Willa the third wheel. And as Ben and Jane’s wedding day approaches, Willa’s suffering expands, and the next thing you know… well, something happened. And it changes everything.
How does it all work out? Friends Like Us may be chick lit, but it’s no romantic comedy. It’s fun and clever, but people get hurt. Fox wisely doesn’t answer the question “what happens to Willa and Ben?” But she does answer the question “what happened to Willa and Jane?” The good news is, Jane’s okay.
Well-written, well-characterized, and with a quickly moving plot, Friends Like Us is well-worth reading, whether your on a lounge chair by the pool or squeezing in 20 pages on the el. I’ll be seeking out Fox’s first novel, Still Life with Husband, promptly!