When your marriage ends, or someone dies, author Jacqueline Mitchard explains in her essay in Dumped: Stories of Women Unfriending Women, "people offer condolences, companionship and casseroles." But when you lose a friend, "no one much cares."
As I think about the host of books, screenplays and songs that have been written as literary dirges to the lovers' break up, and consider the dearth of pieces that have explored the ending of a friendship between two women, I tend to agree with her.
Do breakups of a platonic kind lack the same magnitude; the same cachet? Perhaps, to the uncommitted observer, but not to the women who bravely opened themselves up to scrutiny in this collection of essays compiled by author Nina Gaby.
The anthology consists of a variety of voices, some from more established and eloquent writers than others, but all are honest and raw. And all express the pain and helplessness that comes when a friendship ends. These relationships ranged from those that had been long-standing (35 years, in Ann Hood's case), to those that were as ephemeral as a week. The bonds were formed at middle school lockers, in college dorm rooms, over ice cream sundaes, and cups of coffee and tea. All different, but with a single common thread that ran throughout -- these were alliances that had meaning and heft, and when they were over, there was nothing left but a hole that could not be filled.
What struck me as I read through these essays was how often the women were left behind by their sisters without a warning. Frustration rather than closure played a large role in many of the stories, and the authors were subsequently expected to puzzle out what went wrong. Their analyses and backtracking often led to introspection and lots of self-flagellation, but even more often, and what I found to be quite wonderful, self-exploration...and sometimes enlightenment.
Despite having boyfriends and spouses and children, good jobs and careers, outside interests, and other friends, the women who penned these essays were still laid low by the confrontation of failure, betrayal, and in many cases, desertion. I particularly enjoyed the denouements, the epilogues -- how they pulled themselves out of the abyss, whether by facing their own foibles or realizing that life goes on and focusing on things and people who may have fallen to the wayside during the course of some of these friendships. When reading this book, I could not help reflecting back on my own friendships -- everyone has been a "dumper" and a "dumpee" at least once, hasn't she -- and how the abrupt ending or petering out of others affected me. I think any woman who reads this book will find that it underscores how both fragile and fickle friendship can be, and on the plus side, if you've ever been left to pick up the shards of such a loss, you are not alone.
I was given a free copy of Dumped for this honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.