I am a big fan of Jane Green and have read quite a few books of this talented writer over the years. I believe ‘The friends we keep’ is her best, although it doesn’t focus on romance, but on something else equally important: on friendships and our life choices that can either destroy our closeness or help us love and support each other unconditionally.
Evvie, Maggie and Topher meet on the first day of University. They become great friends and even, share a house at some point. Evvie, half-Jamaican, half-American, is a former child-TVstar. She has a few weight-related issues she is going to struggle with through all her life. Pretty and stylish, she is also the only one who doesn’t come from a wealthy family and has to work to earn her living. While working in a pub, she meets Ben, a fellow-bartender, who she calls Evil Ben because he behaves in a particularly unfriendly way towards her. Maggie, on the other hand, develops a crush on him and even has a drunken snog, only to be disappointed to find out that Ben didn’t remember much about that evening. Topher is sensitive, witty, supportive, and very uncertain of his sexuality.
After the graduation, Evvie and Topher find jobs in New York, while Maggie is about to start working in London. Evvie has to stay in the town for another week and what happens to her during this week is going to mark all her life one way or another.
The story moves easily between the three protagonists as years go by. We see how Evvie becomes an internationally famous model, but still makes dubious choices as far as men in her life are concerned. Topher lands a role in a soap opera and has a great relationship with Larry built on trust and understanding. Maggie marries Evil Ben, who turns to be sweet, vulnerable, and great in bed. The three friends reunite on the wedding day and make a pact that if they happen to be alone in their 50s (very unlikely in case of Maggie, they think), they will come and live together.
As the story continues, they mature, make choices, wise and not so wise, and… drift apart. Until they all meet together for their thirtieth university reunion. As their lives haven’t turned out as they expected, isn’t this a great opportunity for re-discovering themselves and their friendship? Only there are a few secrets and betrayals that might threaten this newly-found happiness unless they are honest with each other and try to understand and forgive past mistakes.
All the characters in this book are fully-developed and feel so real, that you get attached to them and keep turning pages to find out what happens next. I loved the way Jane Green chose to tell the story over three decades. This is life, and every friendship, every relationship develops in time.
I can highly recommend this great book to anybody who has wondered about the importance our friends have in our lives, about the reasons we drifted apart with some of our friends, about choices we made in life and how they played out, and anybody who believes in forgiveness and second chances.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.
The book is out on the 4th of June 2019.