The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship

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This compelling and beautifully written non-fiction book is destined to become a classic in the female friendship literature. I was pleased to be able to speak to Jeff about himself and his latest book. I read that you replaced advice columnist Ann Landers when she left the Chicago Sun-Times, is that true? How did that role prepare you for writing The Girls from Ames? Yes, I did an advice column for the Chicago Sun-Times for 14 years. I was 28 when I started in and my readers were predominantly women. You have to remember, though, it was a different time: People would write me a letter and wait six to eight weeks for a response.

Now, if people want advice about their "acne," they just Google it. Randy wanted to leave advice behind for his kids, almost like putting himself in a bottle that would wash up on the shore. It was advice that he wished he had twenty years to give to them but he only had a few months. We tried to do that together with his book. With The Girls from Ames , the women are all in this bottle together, giving each other advice all the way through and we learn from them. Of all the topics you could possibly have written about, why, as a male, did you decide to write a book about female friendship?

In , I wrote a column on female friendship for The Wall Street Journal , and I knew that it had touched a nerve when I received letters and emails from women. I've seen my daughters now 13, 17 and 19 struggle with their friendships and I've seen how friendship can lead to great things. I'm always curious about people and I like to think of myself as a sensitive guy. With a wife, three daughters and no sons, I live in a world of women. So the topic resonates. And if I had written The Boys from Ames , no one would have cared.

Men don't want to read books about male friendship. Why did you specifically choose to write about The Girls from Ames? I had put those emails and letters in a drawer and the letter from Jenny Litchman from Ames about her friends definitely stood out. The girls had lost one of their group, Sheila, under mysterious circumstances at the age of 22 and she still remained in their thoughts every day. Another friend, Karla, had a daughter named Christie who had been diagnosed with leukemia and they all rallied around her.

The women came from the middle of the country and were baby-boomers in their forties. They seemed to be the right age -- an age to which many women could relate. And Jenny also told me that she and her friends laughed so much when they were together that they couldn't always make it to the bathroom.

When I looked at the literature, I couldn't find any other books, written by an outsider, that told the biography of a friendship. I've learned that one of the characteristics of good friends is the ability to be authentic with each other. Do you think that the Girls from Ames were authentic in telling you their stories?

They were very open. But writing this book was a difficult process. The girls shared diaries and letters from middle-school through college with me and by reading them, I learned things that some of them didn't want to tell me. Some women became the focus of the book because they had interesting and compelling stories, and were more willing to share them. Others were more reticent. It was tough though. The project became so hard about 6 months ago that I almost abandoned it.

The girls were honest with me but they didn't want it all to appear in print. I understood that what I was asking them to do was very hard and took a lot of courage. I promised them meaningful discussion of the content but couldn't give them the final edit. In the end, even though there was some friction between all of us, they rallied together and drew lines in the sand that I agreed to live with.

They supported one another. Women's friendships are so different than male ones. I have a friend who says, "I love you" at the end of every phone call. We're very close friends but it still makes me feel uncomfortable to hear that. Women are more emotional in their friendships. It's almost innate and I envy them although I know I can't be that way.

The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow

Doing the book was really a test of the friendship among the Girls from Ames. Therefore I was shocked when half way through I was ready to give it 2 stars and quit reading it. However, it was for a bookclub, so I decided to finish it and the last half was better and worth 3 stars. So I guess my true rating would be 2. Angela knew that she was being embraced by those in need of a friend, and she was OK with that at first.

But she was cooler than those more desperate girls. I admire Sally for how she handled the situation, but it did not make me sympathetic towards the group as a whole.


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A couple of other things made the whole book a bit difficult to follow: While I have no doubt Zaslow is a good journalist, I agree with other reviewers that this book needed the touch of a novelist to delve into the deep meanings and ties of friendship. So, what did I like about the second half? Overall, I related more to the girls shared experiences as adults, perhaps because most of my best friends are miles away and yet we have stayed close and supported each other through the rough times of adulthood as well.

I think I would recommend this book if you can overlook how much emphasis it places on the girls exclusive click in high school and appreciate that such an amazing friendship between 10 women has lasted thirty years. May 06, Kate rated it liked it Shelves: Exactly what makes a good book a good book? How is it defined? Do we base it on an inspiring writing style?

Or something that leaves you with a message sunk deep into your bones? Or is a good book something that has stood up to the passing years, surviving fads and unpopularity? I suspect that critics and lay people have been debating this since the advent of the printing press, but I only bring it up because I am unsure of how to judge this particular work.

Jeffrey Zaslow, the author, has created an odd work. It is really just a column that runs pages. This is where my difficulty with the book comes in. If I just based my judgment of this book on the writing, I would probably end my review here with some curt punctuation. Yet, I have trouble doing that. Now, at 24, I find myself in NYC for almost a year and feel terribly alone.

Out of sight, out of mind. The Girls from Ames made me feel that loneliness and guilt more than ever. Do I keep my opinion totally style-based? Or do I judge it based on its affect on me? That would make it a perfectly reasonable read and a good use of my time. May 30, Alethea A rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: I didn't think I would like this book half as much as I did.

I am not a non-fiction reader; I like my non-fic in magazine-article doses, preferably out of Entertainment Weekly. Better yet, just give me a list, just the top ten. I found myself keeping a finger stuck between the pages that show the Girls' photos, and every time something in particular about their story resonated for me, I'd flip to the front and look at the Girl or Girls in question.

I felt myself wanting to know them, to look the I didn't think I would like this book half as much as I did. I felt myself wanting to know them, to look them in the eye. Through this book, in an infinitesimal way, you can meet them. You had to have been there. But I am so glad for this peek into their lives and the friendship they share. In a way, they offer a glimpse into understanding myself. Jeff Zaslow, you've got balls to venture into this territory. A woman at my store told me she did not think this book would appeal to her year-old daughter and left hurriedly before I could reply.

Any girl who has had a friend, or wanted one; any girl who has had a sister, or wanted one; any woman who knew her mother or daughter well, or never knew her at all, or wished she knew her better; any girl who has ever felt alone and needs to know she isn't or doesn't have to be, can relate to and enjoy this book. I didn't think it would appeal to me not being an upper-middle class Midwestern housewife but I have been all of these girls at one point or another.

From childhood crushes to familial heroes, from mean-girl intrigues and girlfights to crying sessions and group hugs, from courtship to marriage--I've been at some of those same intersections of life. And I can see the first blips of other life milestones of theirs that I will pass too: I'm looking forward and backward at the same time.

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Mar 06, Monika rated it really liked it Shelves: Sure they disagreed sometimes, but overall, they we're the true epitamy of best friends. SO glad i got this as a first reads! So I started the book last night, and put it down page because it was really late, and I had to get to bedotherwise I think I update: So I started the book last night, and put it down page because it was really late, and I had to get to bedotherwise I think I would have kept reading it.

I do like this book. I think the stories about the friends are amazing, and I know the feeling of being separated from close girlfriends. The stories bring back memories from my own childhood, even though I grew up in a big city. The one issue I have with the book is that it is written too "journalistically" and not like a "story teller" would tell a story. There are points where I caught myself thinking, why is this side story about a completely different person in here, when I have 11 charachters to already keep track of!

I think this is a book I am definately going to give my future daughter, so that she can realize eary on how important true friendships are, and how regardless of how different you may be, or how you grow in different ways in life, that your true friends will love you for who you are regardles I can't wait to jump into it! Aug 05, Mandy rated it liked it. I thought this book was an interesting idea, in concept.

It was a quick, easy read. It would be good for a book club book or for a group of girls who have or appreciate long lasting friendships. In my opinion the stories of the women and the sociological reflections by the author were often jarring and not seamless. Sometimes you felt like you were reading an email, other times you felt like you were reading a textbook. I also had a difficult time getting into the writing. I come from a school of I thought this book was an interesting idea, in concept.

I come from a school of creative writing that preaches showing vs. And the author did a lot of telling. Its understandable did a lot of telling because he was It was journalistic, socioligical studying in nature. I just can't dig it.

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I really really wanted to love this book. Perhaps if I had a core of girlfriends from the age of kindergarten onward I would have appreciated it more. I did enjoy, as I said before, the concept of the book, the relationship of the friends and all they'd been through. I also found connections with specific women in the book. I guess, in short, I thought the book was a gimmick. While the author meant everything he wrote about the importance of female friendships, to me it is to "on the nose" an attempt to create a book for female friends, book clubs, Oprah.

I would however reccommend this book to friends who enjoy the likes of Eat, Pray Love, books that combine anectotes with studies, etc. I will say the book did make me appreciate the friendships with family that I have. My family was my first friends and I've had them forever! May 21, Jennifer rated it it was ok. It has taken me many months to read this. I read a little of this book at a time in between novels because it just wasn't compelling enough to hold my attention.

I'm not much of a non-fiction reader, but having spent the first 12 years of my life in Ames, I was intrigued by this book. Sadly, it is not very well written, and I was also a little turned off by what these girls were like as teenagers though I think I'd like most of them as grown women. I realize that many people lacked good sense a It has taken me many months to read this. I realize that many people lacked good sense as teenagers, but I've never had much patience for that nor for the adults that then assume that their own teenagers have to act in the same stupid waysas if stupid teenagers are inevitable.

What I enjoyed most were the few memoirs of Ames that struck a sentimental chord for me like mentions of Boyd's Dairy. I was too young to know the girls in the story, but I did know one of their dads, Dr. McCormack, which made the story even more personal. That being said, I felt that too much attention was lavished on the doctor in this book; he seems to have been a great man, but this book shouldn't be about him. And too much attention was given to Kelly one of the "girls" and her opinions.

This book may worth reading if you are from Ames and were born in the 60s or late 50s, or if you are from any small town and have maintained close friendships with friends from your youth. It is heartwearming to read how these girls managed to maintain connections to such an extent that they are able to provide support to one another throughout their lives. Feb 25, Lisa rated it did not like it Shelves: I didn't finish this book. I read about half of it, and was interested in the stories of the eleven friends who make up the group and how they got together when they were chldren and became "the Shisters.

I was also interested in the author's insertion of results of studies that have researched friendship and how they compared to this group of friends. As they left high scho I didn't finish this book. As they left high school and their stories became individual with some descriptions of planned or unplanned reunions , rather than the stories of a group of "girls," I lost interest.

I also sometimes felt like a voyeur, wondering why these friends would share such intimate details of their lives with the author--even stories they may not have shared or discussed with anyone in the group--and I wondered why I cared to read about those stories. Not for me, although I really liked the author's earlier work on The Last Lecture. Jul 07, Laurie rated it it was ok. I was thinking I'd like this book a lot more than I did. Women and friendship sounds good. I think having a male author made this a more clinical read--I never really cared about the women as characters or individuals.

I guess he focused on her beca I was thinking I'd like this book a lot more than I did. I guess he focused on her because she was liberal, single, and feminist. Why are women only applauded as feminists when they have careers like men? When will society value the work that goes into raising a family?

Isn't that feminist too? Sep 07, Kim rated it liked it. I really enjoyed reading about the girls and them growing up in Ames. May 28, Rhonda rated it it was ok Shelves: OK, maybe it's really a 2.

The Girls from Ames

Wall Street Journal comumnist sets out to write a story on "the deep bonds of women as they experience life's joys and challengesand the power of friendship to triumph over heartbreak and unexpected tragedy. The book was more his story-telling than his deductions on friendship, but it was still interesting. I expected more "reflection" and what he learned from it all But those are just the particulars.

What Kelly really hopes Liesl will pick up in her retelling is a feeling of how deep the bonds between women can get. She's not sure what exact words she'll say, but Kelly the wordsmith would like her daughter to know this: Having these women in my world has meant not only acceptance, but radiant joy and laughter that knocks me right out of my chair.

Through our darkest moments, we have lifted each other up. In every moment of grief we've shared, our laughter is a life vest, a secure promise that we will not go under. Perhaps, they say, it is because over the years, they have come up with unspoken or barely acknowledged ground rules that seem to work. They don't brag about their husbands' jobs or incomes. They talk about their children's achievements, but not in a gloating way.

They root for each other's kids, just as they root for each other. They make every effort to be with each other for key events in their lives: If they have disagreements among themselves, if they have negative opinions about each other, if they have things that need to be hashed out, it all remains in the group. They don't go to their husbands with their complaints. They don't tell their friends outside the group.

One upside of being in their forties, they girls say, is that they feel like they've grown beyond a lot of things. They're beyond a cutthroat kind of ambition, they're far less competitive, they've lowered their expectations of others, and they're learning to find satisfaction in just living. They're seeing what feels good: I so badly wanted to like this book chronicling the true friendship of 11 women spanning 40 years since I myself have experienced such female bonding.

But alas, the book is so poorly written and shallow that I couldn't help but groan throughout. So obviously written by a man as he failed miserably at telling a good story nor capturing the complexity and depth of BFF's and frenemies. The writing was atrocious. Honestly, the worst I have ever seen. The author loosely generous word organiz Ugghhh. The author loosely generous word organized the first few chapters based on one of the women and then quickly abandoned that a third of the way through their names and then focused on events.

The problem lies in the actual bones of the chapters where random stories, having little bearing on each other are sprinkled throughout. It kind of reminded me of reading a child's first attempts at writing an open ended story. One thought leading to another thought with little relationship in between other than the characters are all the same, who are all insanely boring and flat by the way.

My life long friends' life stories have been and are still way more interesting than this pablum. I finished the book not really grasping what has bonded these women together so fiercely to travel across country regularly to keep in touch, in person, by email, by letter, and by phone. Obviously, the meat of their closeness has been painstakingly edited in order to portray them, their families, employers, and town in the best possible light at all times, then and now.

Real events and personal qualities are merely hinted at. Careful is the word that comes to mind. The author was very careful with his wording, so obviously crossing the line to crushing on his new female friends that he dare not offend them by telling the truth. I do understand the difficulty in being able to delicately expose 11 real women's lives and their interactions. However, if the author is incapable of fleshing them out then there is no need for the book in the first place. Barely scratching the surface of these women would have worked better in a feel good newspaper or magazine series.

The only one with any depth was Kelly which I suspect was the only one honest enough to expose herself, fitting with her no holds barred personality. I honestly couldn't tell the rest apart. Out of 11 women, the only ones with a husband issue were the two that got divorced. The phrase "mighty white of you gals" ran through my brain as I read each kiss ass rambling line that dissolved like cotton candy fluff in my psyche. I gave it 2 stars for the effort in attempting to capture the nature of female relationships in the first place and second, for the only time I felt any emotion other than sheer boredom, Christie's heartbreaking journey.

That one brief passage however was not enough to warrant writing or reading this book though. Otherwise, it is saccharine sweet, folksy, and cloying. While they were a unit, each girl had at least one defined role. To fully understand the Ames girls, Zaslow takes an in-depth look at the beginning of each girl's family life and how their families impacted their From my blog To fully understand the Ames girls, Zaslow takes an in-depth look at the beginning of each girl's family life and how their families impacted their personalities.

Of the eleven, only ten remain; although the women say when they get together, Sheila is with them in spirit. The girls are different enough to make their group interesting, and they credit their willingness to talk and listen to each other for their long friendship and admit in their 20s and 30s they had a difficult time connecting, which holds true with the science behind friendships.

According to the study in this novel, women have the most difficult time maintaining friendships between the ages of , after which friendship suddenly rates higher. The Ames girls discuss their children, especially their daughters. Current research indicates today's girls will be life-long dieters, have distorted body images, and be scarred by cliques.

The Girls From Ames is an intriguing sociological look inside a group of women who forged deep bonds as young children, forged their friendship by junior high and maintained and strengthened their friendships through time and distance, marriages, births, and divorces. I found this book to be an intriguing look at the social science of friendships, being of the same age group, I do not think I would have been friends with many of these girls, however, I did find it interesting that the McCormick's had a summer house on the same lake my family did, and briefly pondered whether I ever met any of them.

All in all it is an intriguing sociological study on friendship and I would recommend The Girls From Ames to anyone interested in the social sciences of women and friendship. Jul 24, David rated it liked it. The setting is a long-weekend reunion of the 10 surviving of 11 women from a tight group of lifelong friends from Ames, Iowa. Nothing much happens at the reunion, so that functions mostly as a scene-setter for flashbacks and commentary about their lives and friendship. The book was a mixed bag for me. On the minus side, it's poorly edited -- repetition is unwelcome when the subject is interesting e.

Relatedly, it's poorly organized -- a chapter per "girl" for a while and then switches to loose themes such as relationships with men, loss, being in one's 40s etc. Would have worked better I think to use one or the other scheme throughout. Finally, it's poorly written -- author seldom trusts you to draw a conclusion from the action or dialogue but instead hammers home obvious points along the lines of "not every girl always felt close to every other one or agreed with all her decisions, but as a group they were always there for each other".

Many of these points are followed by non-amazing generalizations from social science research about sex differences in friendship patterns etc. Redeeming the book, for me, was the underlying content.

The Girls from Ames: An Interview with Best-Selling Author Jeffrey Zaslow

Actual stories from their lives about marriage, having kids, career decisions, high school memories, illness two have breast cancer; one had a daughter die of leukemia , middle age infirmities, and so on kept me turning the pages. Probably helped that they are just a couple years younger than I am, and I have remained in touch with several close friends since 8th grade, so the "hey, me too" response kicked in fairly often.

Jun 15, Katherine rated it liked it Shelves: I picked this up at the library thinking it was fiction, however, it is the true story of a 11 girls from Ames, Iowa who became close friends in elementary school and despite the fact they are spread out all over the country are still extremely close friends in their mid-forties.

Interspersed with the details of their lives are passages about studies which show that a close group of female friends is one of the contributing factors to being healthy, happy and living a long time at least for wome I picked this up at the library thinking it was fiction, however, it is the true story of a 11 girls from Ames, Iowa who became close friends in elementary school and despite the fact they are spread out all over the country are still extremely close friends in their mid-forties. Interspersed with the details of their lives are passages about studies which show that a close group of female friends is one of the contributing factors to being healthy, happy and living a long time at least for women doesn't seem to matter for men whose friendships are of an entirley different matter.

Marriages even work better because women have someone other than their husbands to vent to and for emotional support, which again, we know women are better at than men. It also seemed to be important that these be very long term friendships not ones made in adulthood. What depressed me reading all this was that I had such a group of girlfriends in elementary school and I can well imagine we would have continued that way through high school and on til today. In fact, I've reconnected with some of them via email and facebook in the last year. However, at the end of my 7th grade yeare we moved and then I changed schools every year or two until college so was never able to reestablish friendships.

Oh well, one more thing to blame my parents for Aug 10, Diana Bogan added it. What is remarkable about this story is not the individual trials and tribulations that these women face in their own lives. And it isn't even really the fact that a woman can have such a deep and meaningful bond of friendship with another woman. What struck me as remarkable - astonishing really- is that a group of 11 women can share such a deep friendship that transcends the group as a whole.

And more, sustain it. Having not grown up in one town my entire childhood, I can't conceive of this bein What is remarkable about this story is not the individual trials and tribulations that these women face in their own lives. Having not grown up in one town my entire childhood, I can't conceive of this being a common occurance. Sure I have reconnected with old friends and made new friends but no one has been around my whole life to know me like the Ames Girls know each other.

I only have that bond with one of two biological sisters! Anyway, the book left me wondering if this is unique to the generation of the women in the book, especially when I don't see my own daughters making tight bonds in their early childhood. I wonder if our digital connectedness will help my daughters continue to grow friendships if and when we move from the only place they have lived so far.

Overall I enjoyed the book. I enjoyed getting to know the women, their stories and taking a retrospective look at my own friendships. Oct 24, Rhonda rated it liked it Shelves: I just finished this book and then read some of the reviews. I agreed with most of them, that the underlying story of these mid-west enduring friends is wonderful.

Their stories made me laugh and cry. I grew up near where they lived and a few years ahead of them. I never knew any of them, but their stories resonated with me. I still have a group of friends from grade-school through high-school who keep in touch with cards, facebook and e-mail. We don't get together near as much as the girls in t I just finished this book and then read some of the reviews. We don't get together near as much as the girls in the book do, but when we do, our lives merge with sharing lifetime memories and catching up, continueing conversations like we never stopped talking and laughing.

I also, however, agree with a lot of the reviewers who say that this author's writing was nearly painful. He spends too much time on some stories, and nearly no time on others, he jumps back and forth, sometimes rehashing stories that should have been resolved the first go-around. He over-describes some things and changes styles a couple of times, starting with giving a chapter each to a couple of the girls, which I truly enjoyed , then abruptly stopping that, to writing in a more broad coverage which was bumbling in my opinion.

Aug 01, Cindy rated it liked it. I picked this book up, not realizing it was non-fiction. But something about it drew me in, and I found myself absorbed in this true story of 11 friends, and all that they have been through over the years, while still maintaining their nearly 40 year friendship. Yes, it's sappy, and yes, there are some tear-jerking moments. But in reading it, I found myself thinking about my own friendships and wishing I had friends as close as these.

It's almost inevitable that you'll find yourself comparing you I picked this book up, not realizing it was non-fiction. It's almost inevitable that you'll find yourself comparing yourself with one of the girls, or remembering situations like some of the ones they had been through, or thinking about your own friends, past and present.


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  4. There were some flaws in the book, however. It seemed like some of the girls were favored over others Maybe the girls wanted it this way, but it was still disappointing. Jul 25, Jo rated it liked it. Made me think of my own girlfriends and our history and how blessed I am to have so many long term friends throughout the different facets and time periods of my life. It also made me realize some of the hurtles we've yet to face. I was touched at many points during the book, but it could maybe have been organized better or the characters could have been introduced in a more memorable way.

    I did find myself flipping back frequently to see who was who again. Of course, organizing the Enjoyed it. Of course, organizing the lives and friendship of 11 women into one book must be a monumental task, so I feel the need to be a bit forgiving. Lastly, I thought it was sweet that this was written by a man trying to understand women and their friendships and, ultimately, what motivates us as a whole because he wanted to understand his 3 daughters and wife.

    Getting the information from this perspective did give me a reminder of what amazing creatures we are and how necessarily different we are from our male counter parts. Oct 03, Megan Lambert rated it did not like it. The first half was okay; the second half I couldn't even complete, as I was bored to tears of hearing the authorm chatter on about the ordinary day-to-day trials of life as a woman, mother, friend, and wife.

    There was nothing special about these women, save a life-long friendship, and most of the book was spent in details I already have to listen to my coworkers drone on about on a daily basis. At least that I am getting paid for. Jun 08, Canada Snyder rated it did not like it. I really didn't think this book was all that great.

    I think i had a difficult time getting past the fact that these girls were the "mean girls" in school. Also, many of their friendships seemed to only be on the surface. I felt like it was sort of cliche because he was talking about a cute story from the Midwest I am from Des Moines area so know Ames quite well and these girls did not seem like such a big deal There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Videos About This Book.