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T he best friend who broke up with you. The older girl at school you worshipped. The beloved college friend who changed. The friend you slept with. The friend who betrayed you. The friend you betrayed. Companions in travel, in discovery, in motherhood, in grief; the mentor, the model, the rescuer, the guide, the little sister. These have been the women in Susanna Sonnenberg's life, friends tender, dominant, and crucial after her reckless mother gave her early lessons in womanhood.
Searing and superbly written, Sonnenberg's "She Matters: A Life in Friendships "illuminates the friendships that have influenced, nourished, inspired, and haunted her--and sometimes torn her apart. Each has its own lessons that Sonnenberg seeks to understand. Her method is investigative and ruminative; her result, fearlessly observed portraits of friendships that will inspire all readers to consider the complexities of their own relationships. This electric book is testimony to the emotional significance of the intense bonds between women, whether shattered, shaky, or unbreakable.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-07-09
- Reviewer: Staff
A tribute to her lifelong “fortress of friendship,” Sonnenberg (Her Last Death) guides a tour through the female friendships that have inspired her, broken her, and brought her back to life. Dependent on friends for the nurturing and solace missing from her relationship with her mother and sister, women come and go throughout the years to provide varied roles in her life. Some were friendships built out of mutual need, circumstance, or an interest that eventually faded to a faint glimmer where there was once fire. Others are fleeting moments in which two lives touch, that moment with unforgettable significance as when an acquaintance from college becomes a sudden pillar in a time of tragedy. Loneliness and the dire need to belong may also fuel a union, as Sonnenberg professes: “That spring day I felt dangerously unloved. I needed to be included anywhere, at some table.” Yet finding it “easier to be the hero... than to wait for rescue, afraid of inevitable disappointment,” it was difficult for her to trust help from anyone, “nervous as usual about uneven power, tallied debts.” Sonnenberg’s strikingly honest depictions of tumultuous female alliances and confessions about friendships are both moving and relatable; her depth of reflection and incandescent prose marks this exceptional memoir as a must-read to share among friends. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME. (Jan.)
The friends who shape us
For fans of searingly honest memoirs, the publication of Susanna Sonnenberg’s She Matters is a cause for celebration. Sonnenberg’s previous book, Her Last Death, explored her tumultuous relationship with her provocative and ultimately destructive mother. This book turns to more nurturing, though occasionally heartbreaking, women in Sonnenberg’s life: her friends.
Comprised of 20 short essays, Sonnenberg’s book discusses all kinds of friendships—those that ended well, ended badly, ended mysteriously or (occasionally) continue today. Her Rolodex of friends includes a writer, a painter, a stay-at-home mom, a rabbi and a massage therapist. I can only imagine what her friends must have thought when they found themselves drawn by her pen; but for readers, the rewards are rich. The book’s honesty, eloquence, laugh-out-loud humor, finely wrought prose and magnificent scope will keep readers eagerly turning the pages.
The Sonnenberg who closes the book is not the same woman we meet on page one. Because the essays are arranged chronologically, readers learn how major life decisions—from embracing motherhood to moving to Montana, from becoming a writer to working in an abortion clinic—have shaped the way she chooses and fosters her friendships. We see how time and change impacted some of her oldest relationships. Given this benefit of space and reflection, Sonnenberg adds asides that deepen some of the early stories. “Had I paid attention,” she says of one friend, “she would have shown me a first real lesson in grief, its disorganizing confusions, its inescapable solitude.”
One of the many things to appreciate about this book is its refusal to bundle each friendship into a neat bow. Instead, these memorable and lovely essays gesture to the real-life intricacies of relationships. They celebrate the many pleasures of knowing and being known. For readers who welcome a complex perspective beautifully rendered in writing, this book is not to be missed.