Saturday, September 19, 2009

Commencement - J. Courtney Sullivan

This book opens in 2006 - four years after four best friends graduated from Smith and are reuniting for a wedding. Celia, April, Sally, and Bree all have very distinct personalities and backgrounds, but when they find themselves first year hallmates, they form fast friendships. The chapters switch among the four women, telling stories of their pasts, their lives at Smith, and their lives after Smith. April is a hard-core feminist activist, putting herself in harm's way to make documentaries about human trafficking, female genital mutilation, and all things misogynistic in our society. Sally, who lost her mother just months before beginning at Smith, struggles to find love - falling for a Smith professor, before settling down to get married at 24. Bree, a Southern belle, discovers her love for another woman, becomes a corporate attorney in San Francisco, and finds herself torn between following her heart and gaining the acceptance of her family. Celia is the most lost of all - trying to hold on to her college friendships, unsure of the lessons she was supposed to learn from an all women's school, and learning to be okay with her independence. While a lot happens in the book - and the end is a little unnecessarily dramatic - I mostly just enjoyed learning about the lives of these different women. Even though they came together somewhat out of the convenience of their dorm assignments, the friendships they developed were real. The passage of time brought them all to different places in their lives - they made different choices, but nothing changed their need to be together. This is really a powerful story about the strength of female friendships. The writing reminded me of Prep, and while the subject matter seems of the chick-lit variety (in the pejorative sense), the issues are much more complex and satisfying.

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