There ought to have been a law against driving while you were in tears.

I’ve just read The Friendship Test by Elizabeth Noble, and, even though it’s about four women who became friends in college and their friendship over the next fourteen years, it hasn’t inspired the usual feelings of melancholy that I get when reading about female friendships. I think that’s because the relationships are so much more realistic than relationships in books often are. When the girls get married, there’s a little bit of jealousy, their relationships make the day a little stressful for each other. How many times have I seen or heard about petty girl jealousies disrupting the peace on a wedding day? How many times have I read about perfect wedding days? Or at least perfect girlfriend relationships on wedding days, where everyone’s smiling and completely delighted for the pictures? It plays out a little later on, too – when the first one has kids, no one knows how to act, and there are some awkward moments there, too. That seems real to me, like what I experienced in my relationships with women, what I observed in other women’s relationships. The reality isn’t always picture-perfect, and that’s okay. It’s nice to celebrate that, to celebrate friendships that survive those changes, even if they don’t survive completely unscathed.

In this book, one of the main characters, Reagan, is a bit standoffish to the others, doesn’t have a lot of relationships outside the group, and I found her especially realistic. As much as I didn’t want to relate to her, I definitely did. I know what it’s like to be unable to express to your friends how much they mean to you. I know about pushing them away because you are worried they will reject you first. I didn’t like Reagan’s character all that much – she was too prickly. But I could understand her. She didn’t mean to make things so difficult on her friends. She just didn’t know what else to do.

And, just as Reagan started working through those issues by the end of the book, I feel like I’ve gotten better, more secure in who I am, more secure in sharing myself with my friends. I don’t always realize how much more until I see a pretty clear picture of how things used to be.

In the end, The Friendship Test, like The Reading Group (Elizabeth Noble’s other book) is a fairly light book about relationships, and how they play out over a period of time in slightly messy ways. But Elizabeth Noble has a gift for characters, and the characters in this book drew me in.

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