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Friendship by the Book: Pieces of Happily Ever After

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Although it's sometimes hard to accept, life never evolves like a fairy tale. Journalist and author Irene Zutell's latest novel, Pieces of Happily Ever After (St. Martin's Griffin, 2009), sensitively captures the inevitable struggles that women encounter along the way, including: infidelity, divorce, balancing care for children and parents, juggling work and family, growing up, achieving independence, losing friends and making them.

You'll meet protagonist Alice Hirsch, a PR guru, who is married to Alex, an entertainment lawyer. They have a precocious five-year-old daughter and Alice is the primary caregiver for her mom, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. When Alice's husband suddenly dumps her, very publicly, for a Hollywood starlet, she has to find a way to dig herself out of her problems and repair her damaged self-esteem. With the support of her "mommy friends," a cast of equally interesting and well-developed characters, Alice is not only rescued but finds she is able to define her own "happily ever after."

Set in California's San Fernando Valley, this story could well take place in any middle-class suburb. This particular backdrop provides a vehicle for the author to weave comic relief and celebrity culture into a thoroughly engaging and entertaining storyline. The well-paced plot offers a perfect blend of familiarity and surprise to grip the reader's attention from beginning to end.

Of course, I loved some of the lessons the book offers about mommy friendships---e.g. That woman need to actively forge new friendships as our lives change; that office friends can turn out to be nothing more than that; that we need to guard against judging friends too critically before we know them; and that adversity often helps us recognize our true friends. While friends and lovers play prominent roles in the book, its layered depiction of mother-daughter relationships is especially compelling.

Friendship by the Book is an occasional series of posts on The Friendship Blog about books that offer friendship lessons.

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