Reviewed by Helyce
Warning: there is infidelity in this book. It affects two of the woman featured. There is also drug abuse and domestic violence-though that’s told in the form of memories. If you are uncomfortable with any these things, this story may not be for you.
In Four Friends, we meet four, everyday- but no less extraordinary women who live in the affluent town of Mill Valley, California. Some are married, some have children, some not; all are at various stages of their lives. Over the course of this book, we get to know them intimately as we live alongside them and experience each and every high and low they do. I am sure that anyone who reads this will be able to relate to one of the woman featured here or will know someone in their lives like one of the woman here. Ms. Carr takes a gritty and realistic approach as she gives us this story. Yet what shines through, after the heartbreak and all the pain, is the strong bond of friendships that these women have. Let’s meet the friends-
Gerri is 49, married for twenty-five years to Phil and has three children, Jeb, Jessie and Matthew, all teenagers. Gerri works for Child Protective Services and Phil is an assistant D.A. From the outside, looking in, they are the perfect couple. They work well together-keeping kids, work and home life running smoothly. Gerri is menopausal and dealing with mood swings and hot flashes and she can’t remember when she and Phil were last intimate, but that’s okay–they are on the same page where that is concerned. Or are they?
Andy is 47 and when we meet her, she’s throwing out her second husband, Bryce, because she’s found out that he’s been cheating on her. She seems resigned to this fact-like she’d expected it all along. Andy has a son, Noel, who lives part time with her and part time with his father (who also cheated on Andy) and part time with some friends. He’s 19, in college and dealing with issues of his own.
Sonja is 40, married to George, no children. George is rich-so Sonja spends her days teaching Yoga and sharing all her new age holistic knowledge with anyone who cares to listen. She also shares all this positive energy with her friends, Gerri and Andy. She takes care of George, making sure he eats right and stays healthy. George is going along with it all….for now.
And lastly, we meet BJ, aged 35, two children. BJ is new to the neighborhood and pretty much keeps to herself. Though Sonja’s tried to bring her into the fold, inviting her to walk with her, Andy and Gerri-BJ always declines claiming she prefers to run. BJ appears to stay on the periphery, but it’s not long before she finds herself smack dab in the middle of it all.
After Andy throws out Bryce, both Gerri and Sonja are dealt devastating blows of their own. In an innocent conversation with Gerri’s husband’s secretary, Kelly, Gerri learns that Phil had an affair. Gerri plays along with Kelly’s assumption that she knew all about it, but she didn’t and it’s devastating to her. For Sonja, there is no infidelity, but her husband George comes home one day and out of the blue with no warning says he’s had enough of her new age health nut crap and he can’t take it anymore and moves out. Each woman deals with these issues in a different manner. Gerri confronts her husband and they separate, while poor Sonja heads into dark depression and requires hospitalization.
I have a strong personal view of infidelity, but as I read this and watched Phil and Gerri try to work through their problems, I admit-I was pulling for this couple to reunite. I could relate to Gerri in so many ways-but this quote from one of their “discussions” really stood out for me:
“I wonder if you do understand, Phil. The kids—they want us together again, no matter what the cost is to me. They want me to look the other way, get over it. They’re not hating you for what you did to our marriage, they’re mad at me for taking offense that you had another woman in your life for two years. I knew this would be hard, but I never knew that, no matter which way I turned, it would end up being my fault.”
“It is,” she said, suddenly hurting all over again. “It’s my fault I can’t live with you because of it, my fault I found out, my fault I got mad about it…You spent two years boinking some woman from the office, but three weeks is too long for me to be upset about it! What is it with mothers, huh? Why is everything in the whole goddam world always the mother’s fault?”
I think the character of Sonja had the most personal growth in here. When she finally breaks out of her deep dark depression, she’s kept level with medication and she attends some group counseling which she hates, but it is ultimately the catalyst for her huge breakthrough. Following that, she begins to work in her backyard, beautifying it with plants and flowers. It’s a different kind of therapy and she shares her therapist’s thoughts with BJ:
[…] “So, when I got to that little gem of knowledge, revisiting that time of my life, I sobbed for days. Cried and dug in the yard and cried some more. My shrink said, “I can’t think of a better place for your tears to fall than on the flowers.”
You’d think Andy’s life would also be in upheaval-but as I said above, her marriage to Bryce ending was, sadly, not unexpected. More unexpected, however, was the deep friendship she develops with Bob, a carpenter who is renovating her kitchen at the time she throws her husband out. The time she spends with him while he works, talking and getting to know each other become a form of intimacy that she’d never experienced with a man. She comes to the realization that she’s gonna miss Bob when this job is over and he moves on to the next one. Andy finds in Bob everything that had been missing in her previous relationships.
BJ who has the biggest secret, slowly comes out of her shell and lets these women in. By the end she’s closest to Sonja; most likely because it is BJ who saw all the early signs of Sonja’s severe depression and made sure that Andy and Gerri saw it too. She’s credited with saving Sonja’s life twice and when she’s finally confident to do so, she shares her story with them. She takes a big chance, but in the end it’s totally worth it.
We get to know these women in depth- their strengths, their weaknesses, their fears, their secrets. Each one is there for the other at their time of need. They all go through massive discoveries about themselves and each other. The power of their close friendship is the common thread throughout this book. I was moved by the honesty, the truths. As a 50 year old woman myself, I could relate to a lot in here which is probably why I enjoyed it so much.