My book club discussed Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow for our February Book Club meeting that I hosted. We went to a restaurant and had our own private section which made for a great time and discussion about the book as we had appetizers, wine & beer and of course dessert!
The Girls from Ames is a story about eleven girls who all grew up together in Ames, Iowa and had a special bond that continued into their adult lives. They spread apart to different states but they maintained their friendships through college, dating, marriage & divorce, motherhood, childhood illnesses and deaths. Their story is a true testament of the bonds of friendship and that friendship, especially among these women can be the glue that holds their lives together. Jeffrey Zaslow is a journalist and wrote from that perspective as he shares the girls stories over a 40 year time period. It is a book that women can relate to as most of us can look back and recall memories of our first friendships and many are blessed to have maintained those friendships over the years. I grew up in the 60's and 70's when the Ames girls were growing up so I could relate to much of the cultural and social references. I have maintained contact and connections with many school friends from my youth but not in the same way as the Ames girls have. I do envy that connection that they have held throughout the years, always knowing that they have a group of friends that will be there for them.
I liked the premise of the story of The Girls From Ames but the style of writing and flow of the book didn't work for me. It was hard to connect to the girls as there were so many and it was hard to keep their lives and experiences straight. In the hardback edition that I read, there was a list of the girls and a small bio and picture that I frequently referred back to as I read. Some of the girls in my book club read the paperback edition which they said did not include this list which made it harder to keep track of the girls. We did all agree that the writing style was hard to follow and affected our appreciation of the book. We had a great discussion about the book, friendships over the years, adult vs girls friendships, struggles and challenges and the effect friendships have had on our lives. There is a game in the book that the Girls From Ames played as adults at one of their get-togethers called the "Pebble game". I made a version of the game called the Hershey Kiss game for our book club discussion and we all had a fun time with the game. In the Girls From Ames version of the Pebble Game, there are pebbles in a bag with numbers 1-20 on them. Each girl passes the bag and takes out a pebble and the leader has a list of life related fill in the blank questions related to each number. I used Hershey Kisses instead of pebbles and numbered the tags and made up a list of questions some which came from the book and others that I added. Overall, we had a great discussion of the book. Although most of us won't say it's a favorite book, we will remember that it stirred a wonderful discussion.
Sadly, right before our book club meeting, the author Jeffrey Zaslow was killed in a tragic car accident. He is the author of The Last Lecture and several other novels that share stories about inspirational people. He wrote columns for the Wall Street Journal that inspired many of the novels that he wrote. This is such a tragic loss for his family, first and foremost, as he leaves behind a wife and daughters. He has also left behind a legacy of stories that have touched the world.