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It's a surprisingly hot day in Bangalore today. The skies are crystal blue, the air still and dull. And dull is a word that I would also use to describe The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow. This book is a perfect example of how you can take a seemingly great story and then reduce it to run-of-the-mill stuff that seriously should not have passed a publisher, let alone reach the best-seller list.
Yes, I am a bit irritated. Make no mistake - I think I would love to know the girls from Ames - they seem wonderful, supportive women who have kept a childhood friendship alive and strong for 40 years now. It's a deep bond that these 11 women share as they pass through life's various vicissitudes. Knowing personally how tough it is these days to find good friends AND keep them - it's an unusual and strange story. Yet, in the hands of a journalist, it becomes a soporific documentary. I found myself just skipping the pages - trying to take in 11 characters is a bit like reading a Russian novel. Without the Russian novel's readability. I found that I had no idea who each of the girls where when the book starts in a rather stuttering fashion, and after sometime, I didn't care.
Despite having 11 women to write about, Zaslow chooses to concentrate on 3 women - Kelly, Karen and Marilyn. There is no in depth retelling of their lives - I am of the opinion that you don't have to lead a fascinating life (whatever fascination is) to be fascinating - but you need to be a fascinating writer to convey the pithy, pathos, bathos, the dredge, sludge, slime and beauty of human existence. Zaslow is not of them. He may be a great journalist, but not the writer who can make you shiver, tremble with awe, and swoon as you read words that seem to come to life all on their own. It appears that he just visited the girls on their reunion weekend - jotted down a few points and anecdotes about their lives, and then just wrote about it. It's what you might do when you have to report for your local suburban newspaper in a hurry. I couldn't obtain a sense of clarity - no progression on how the girls maintained their friendships. I could only come back with a hazy blurry image of a few women - their marriages and their kids mostly - and a lot of information for some reason on Marilyn's father - Dr. Cormack. This book was an utter waste of time - I try to find the good in every book - but there are times when you feel irritated that you gave a few hours of your life, that a 1000 trees gave their lives, just so that you can write in a haphazard disjointed manner about 11 women.
Verdict: Avoid. That's it.
Rating: 1/5 (And that's only because the book is on a topic I love)