With Friends Like These

Women's Friendships, compiled and edited by Susan Koppelman, is an outstanding collection of short stories by and about women, covering a century and a half of artistry. Most of the heavy hitters you might expect are here: Edith Wharton, Sarah Orne Jewett, Dorothy Parker, Grace Paley. The absence of such "naturals" as Willa Cather and Katherine Anne Porter suggests that Koppelman adhered to her thesis carefully: If a writer, be she ever important, did not write a first-rate story about the many faces of friendships amongst and between women, she is not included.

The real surprising delight in store for the reader is found in the stories by women perhaps never before heard of: Lydia Child, Alice Brown, Frances Gray Patton, J. California, Madelyn Arnold. The subject matter touches on topics as diverse as the plight of the homeless; a cure for sexual harassment; respect between races; balance between economic necessity and friendship; the real meaning of poverty; the role of fantasy in cementing friendship; the pressures mitigating against friendship; befriending the dying; and the need of straight women for women friends as much as (or even more than) lovers.

The variations on the theme are seemingly endless. Yet the unifying thread intricately weaving these stories together is the love cultivated and nurtured in these friendships.

Zona Gale's moving story, "Nobody Sick, Nobody Poor," almost acts as an umbrella under which all the other 20 stories may find shelter. In simple and unpretentious prose, the author tells the story of seven lonely women who have enough money and food for their lives, but not enough love for others to make life worth living. Through a central catalyst character, they are manipulated into sharing a country version of Babette's Feast for Thanksgiving. In so doing they learn to love themselves and one another.

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Sojourners Magazine December 1993
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