Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review: A Questionable Friendship

By Melissa Amster

Friendship is a core value for chick lit novels. Most characters have at least one really close friend with whom they can share confidences, a good shoulder cry, a spa day, a night on the town, etc. When a novel centers around best friends, it becomes even more intriguing. Female friendships are so important in real life and we love to see our favorite chick lit authors bring them to life. This definitely applies to Samantha March's third novel, A Questionable Friendship.

Brynne Ropert and Portland Dolish have been best friends since being paired as roommates in college. Seven years later they are now twenty-five, married, and living in Maine–– but the two women couldn’t be more different. Brynne finds fulfillment in her life as a wife, mother and owner of a small cafĂ© and bookshop, but is struggling to expand her family. Portland is still coping with her mother’s death during her childhood, and her marriage is unraveling before her eyes. Portland envies her friend’s seemingly stable and easy life while Brynne doesn’t understand the growing distance between them and cannot begin to guess what secret Portland is hiding about her husband and crumbling marriage. While one woman feels shut out, the other enters into a web of lies to protect herself. A Questionable Friendship explores what really makes someone a true friend, a support system, a sister. How much trust goes into a friendship and when is being a friend not enough? Brynne and Portland’s story will attempt to answer those questions, and show that happily ever after isn’t in the cards for everyone. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

As soon as I heard what this novel would be about, I knew I had to get my hands on it. It sounded like Firefly Lane (by Kristin Hannah) in some ways, where best friends lead two separate lives and try to understand one another. It seems like a common thread in chick lit novels, that one woman has the cozy home life and the other is single or struggling in her relationship. As I started digging in, I felt like Samantha had been spying on conversations between myself and my best friend. I'm not even exaggerating here. Portland said certain things to Brynne that sounded like they were lifted from e-mails my best friend has sent to me. The story felt authentic just in that way, but it also didn't wrap up as neatly as I would have liked, or even expected, it to (there are times when I don't mind that a story ends on a perfect note). The last sentence in the synopsis says just as much, but that's all I can share for now. It just makes me very thankful that even when my best friend and I butt heads over similar things that Brynne and Portland did, we get through those tough spots and bond even more than before.

While this was definitely heavier than most chick lit novels I've read, it was also intriguing and captivating. The dialogue felt genuine and the details made it easy to picture everyone and everything throughout the story. I like that Brynne and Portland took turns narrating, as it allowed me to hear both sides of the story and sympathize with both characters. I think the flashback scenes would have been easier to keep up with if they were separated out from the current scenes, either by italicizing the font or putting lines of blank space before and after each flashback. The only other thing I would have done is research day care and preschool programs, as 32 kids in one class seems rather overwhelming. Maybe that's just me reading it as a parent though...

Overall, A Questionable Friendship explores some interesting issues that can arise between best friends and brings up other questions in the process.  It definitely did not go where I expected it to and I wish it had tied up a different way at the end, but I'm still glad I got the opportunity to read it. Samantha March has a strong writing voice that comes from being a huge fan of chick lit herself!

Of course, I had to cast it as a movie...
Portland: Blake Lively (I thought of her immediately for this part, so it was funny when Portland mentioned Blake Lively later in the story)
Brynne: Lyndsy Fonseca
Darlene (Portland's father's girlfriend): Annette Bening
Aaron (Brynne's husband): Zac Efron
Trent (Portland's husband): Chace Crawford (I saw him on Glee recently and thought he had the right look and personality for this role, based on how he acted in that episode.)

Thanks to Samantha March for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Samantha March:


Samantha said...

Thank you so much for your review! Glad you were able to connect with the book :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds very interesting. I may have to check this book out. And thank you for giving your opinion on the writing style of this book. It's nice to have a heads up on that.

Samantha Stroh Bailey said...

I really loved this book, and this is a great review. Samantha always develops very relatable characters who tackle serious, real-life issues. I can always picture who they are and the dialogue is sharp and spot-on. Bravo, Samantha!

AiringMyLaundry said...

I need to add this to my growing list of books to read!