It’s been a hot minute since I read a book I felt absolutely compelled to tell everyone about. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read some GREAT books this year. The Shadow of the Wind was my faithful and beloved companion throughout China and a pure delight from start to finish. But Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendships spurred in me an entirely different type of book love — the type where I found myself striking up conversations with strangers on the subway just to tell them about this book. It not only compelled me with its writing but it felt like someone was telling, and celebrating, my own story within its pages and how often does that happen?
In Text Me When You Get Home, journalist Kayleen Schaefer writes about society’s changing perspective of female friendship from casual, catty interactions to life defining relationships. Schaefer shares her own experiences of shying away from female friendships growing up because of the perceptions she was saturated with by the media that female friendships were dramatic, emotional, and backstabbing (something I definitely relate to). There was more of an importance to be “one of the guys.” But in her late 20s, after breaking up with her boyfriend of nine years to chase her career dreams, Schaefer learned just how important her female friendships were as they evolved into her chosen family. At its core, this novel begs the question: What if we stopped treating friendships as the side relationships in our lives and treated them with the same sacredness we would a familial or romantic relationship?
While the novel is centered around female friendships, I think it’s a must read for anyone of any sex or gender because at its core, Text Me When You Get Home is a love letter to the friendships that give our life shape and color and support. It’s a validation that the way we chose to prioritize and navigate our adult friendships, with loyalty and unconditional care, is completely worthwhile. From the first paragraph, I was texting my best friends copies of this quote:
“Text me when you get home. Usually it’s late when women say this to each other, the end of a night that at some point felt thrilling. We might have been at dinner, a concert, a cocktail. We might have been just hanging out talking even though we knew we’d be tired the next day. Maybe we shared secrets or surprise compliments (or both). Maybe we danced. Maybe we hugged with total joy. Maybe we were buoyed by booze or maybe we just felt light because of our love for each other. My best friend Ruthie, who lives a few blocks from me in Brooklyn, and I say it to each other after these kinds of nights. “I love you,” one of us will say. “Text me when you get home,” the other will say. We’re saying the same thing.”
I mean, COME ON! MY HEART! And that was page one! I don’t have a book in my apartment more highlighted and dog eared than this one because it gives words to all the ways I feel about my friends. For those I’ve been friends with now for 5, 10, 15 years, the word best friend no longer feels big enough. They’re my family or rather, my fate mates — a term I made up to describe the people I believe I was meant to know.
For me, my best friends are split pretty evenly between men and women. My closest friendships throughout college primarily included guy best friends who showed me that real masculinity is kind and strong and caring and funny. Watching them grow into these incredible men gives me such hope for the future and through their patience and love, I truly learned to love myself.
In these last few years, I’ve found myself in a space where my female friendships are more present on a daily basis. They form my social circle here in New York and from them I’ve learned what it means to really show up and be present as a friend. These women have held me when I felt most scared, made me laugh until I spit wine out of my nose, and are my emergency contacts. But mostly, they’ve shown me the power of embracing all the dichotomies of being a woman. Our nights always end with us saying “I love you” instead of goodbye as we head back to our separate boroughs or neighborhoods, and if we don’t get that text, we always follow up.
I am constantly awed when I look at my friends, and marvel at how I got so lucky to know each and every one of them — from those I entered 7th grade band with to those I now spend Sunday nights watching HBO shows surrounded by. I love you all. So read this marvelous novel. It’s simultaneously a pep talk and a love letter and a research paper and a call to action. But mostly it’s a must read.
And when you’re done reading this and have passed it around to all of your mates, here are ten more books celebrating female friendship — a topic not often covered in literature. We’ve got loads of books starring women (HERE FOR IT!), we’ve got lots of books about male/female friendships, and we’ve got lots of books where the female best friend is more of a sub-point or side kick. But not today! Today we’re talking all about the ladies who lunch with matching best friend bracelets waving proudly from their wrists.
- Lumberjanes – The epitome of badass female friendships. I wrote about this comic years ago and today, am still just as enamored with how each of the main characters support their girl group and navigate their friendships. It’s also a great place to dip your toes into the comic world.
- Truth and Beauty – Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett is a raw and honest look at her lifelong friendship with her best friend Lucy Greely who passed away from cancer. Reading this book feels like holding their friendship’s beating heart in your hands and what I loved best about it is that it doesn’t sugarcoat either Ann or Lucy. It shows them how they are, so different and at times difficult, and how they chose to always fill their lives with each other.
- We Are Okay – This novel is similarly honest and complex. It follows one girl’s grief after her grandfather passes away and the secrets she begins to learn about the man she thought she knew. It’s a poignant novel about grief and the enduring power of friendship It is another must read.
- Bird by Bird – A pep talk for all creatives, this memoir from writer Anne Lamott explores the power of community in helping her as a single mother raise her son.
- Giant Days – This comic series is just pure fun. I find myself laughing out loud at the three female best friends trying to survive their first year of college and despite being so different, going out of their ways to be each others hype women.
- The Joy Luck Club – An oldie but a goldie and one I am making a priority to revisit this year.
- Patron Saint of Liars – Look, Ann Patchett just writes about female friendship really really well! This is her first novel and it is driven by numerous female friendships-turned-family relationships including my favorite between a teenage mother and an 80-year-old nun.
- This One Summer – This is a coming of age story about two pre-teen friends who spend the summer exploring their new interest in boys, shedding their “embarrassingly young selves” and starting to become aware of the burnt out lives of the adults around them. It’s the winner of the Eisner Award for a reason.
And finally, I haven’t read these two but they’re on my list:
- Summer Sisters
- Swing Time
Anything you would add to the list? I’d love to add them to my TBR so please let me know!