Monthly Recommendations May 2016: Friendship Stories

Friendships come in many forms and go through stages of development, sometimes coming to an end.  When considering what books to recommend this month, I thought of several that I know will have many people recommending them (i.e. the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery, etc.).  There were two books, however, that sprang immediately to mind when I first learned this month’s theme.  So, after spending most of this month being wishy-washy about what I would recommend, I decided to go with those two and pass along an additional recommendation from my Middle Grade reading buddy/niece, M.C.:

First up, the book that was recommended to me by M.C.:

My instagram photo of a library copy. Why do they put the bar code stickers across book titles?

The Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings [Puffin Books, 2006] is a story with themes of friendship, grief and responsibility.  Brady, J.T., and Digger have what might be described as an idyllic boyhood friendship.  They bonded partly over one of them being bullied, they go fishing together and spend every moment they can with each other.  Until, that is, things begin to change.  The local economy is suffering, land that they used to play on is sold to a family that builds a large house and the husband tells the boys not to trespass.  When Ben DiAngelo, the very young son of that family, goes missing is when the story begins.  Brady goes out on the river and finds the nearly drowned boy, and eventually the red kayak that he and his mother had been out on.  Ben’s subsequent death leads to a strain on Brady’s relationships with the other two boys and to a contemplation of guilt and the nature of friendship, loyalty, and responsibility.  A mature choice for my then 12 year old niece, and one that she was adamant I read as well.  Now I am happy to be able to pass along her emphatic recommendation.  This is, according to M.C., the best book she has ever read.

secrettohummingbirdcake_mchale_tnzfictionNext, The Secret to Hummingbird Cake by Celeste Fletcher McHale [Thomas Nelson, February 2016] is the story of three women who have been friends since grade school.  These are three Southern women who stick together through everything life throws at them, supporting and challenging each other no matter what.  Before I get all choked up, again, by this one – you can read my review here.  Another book that I would highly recommend, along with a bonus recommendation of the cake from the title.  A three-layer cake that is reminiscent of banana bread, with crushed pineapple in the batter and cream cheese frosting wrapped around each layer… yum!  Most people in my part of the country don’t have any idea what Hummingbird Cake is, but once they do they love it (I made it for a baby shower this past weekend, at the request of my eldest niece who says that it is the baby that loves it – I’ve now made it for her him three times).

Finally, a novel that highlights the beginnings of several friendships, The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim.  I previously described this novel on Instagram:

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim is about transformation, second chances, love rediscovered, love that is new. As Lottie would put it, “a tub of love.”

And this is true, but all of this is built on and around the solidarity and eventual friendships between four women who are unhappy with their circumstances.  When a newspaper advertisement for a wisteria and sunshine filled villa in Italy for the month of April is spotted by Lottie, she approaches Rose for the first time.  To defray the cost, they agree to advertise for additional women to join them.  This brings them together with a beautiful young socialite and an elderly woman who is living in the past.  Leaving husbands, society, and – no, wait, Mrs. Fisher does the then stereotypical British thing of basically taking everything with her – most of their cares behind.  Slowly, they grow to understand each other, come to terms with themselves and their lives, and eventually they form friendships – along with a surprise or two when joined by the men they left behind in England.

Originally published in 1922, this is the photo I put on Instagram of my 2007 NYRB Classics edition (purchased used from Powell’s in 2015)

I adore this book and give it my highest recommendation.  I’ve avoided reviewing it because I find it difficult to adequately describe, especially without giving too much detail (hopefully I have not done that here).  This is also one of the rare occasions where I feel that the movie is at the same level as the novel, and highly recommend it as well. The 1991 film has an amazing cast and matches the novel in pace and atmosphere.  Having seen the movie multiple times before finally reading the book last year, I would say that it does not matter which you experience first.  The novel, however, does have the advantage when it comes to communicating the inner thoughts of the characters.

I do hope you’ll consider giving these books a go.  Are there any books that leap to mind for you when you think about this month’s topic of Friendship Stories?  Let me know in the comments – I love getting recommendations!

Monthly Recommendations is a GoodReads group of bloggers and YouTube content creators started by Kayla of Kayla Raines and Trina from Between Chapters.  Check out the group for links to blogposts and videos with more recommendations and join in on the conversations.