Monday, August 17, 2009

Capturing the Spirit of it All

I am ashamed to admit I succumb very easily to flattery in all its forms. Just before I left on vacation I received an advance reader copy of a new book. I was almost giddy that I’d been selected to read and review it. Don’t cringe when you see the title. Okay, do. Because I did. Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes . Could it possibly be any more “chick lit”? Besides, I try to steer clear of those books that show the author’s name ten times bigger than the title. This woman sounds like a factory. I glanced inside to see what else she has written, and was even more skeptical when I saw how prolific she is. She’s probably written as many books as I’ve written blog posts.

And yet—

I read this definition on the back:
Sisterchick n: A friend who laughs with you till you cry and cries with you till you laugh; a gift from God.”

That resonated for me. I have friends like that. A very small handful. And I start to understand the wide success of this franchise (for lack of a better term for this enormously popular series of chick-lit novels.) These deep friends-who-feel-more-like-sisters all share a common bond that the author touched on in her definition: A spiritual component. How refreshing to have someone acknowledge that openly and honestly in mainstream fiction!

I glanced inside and read the prologue. Wow. An abnormal mammogram. And her mom died of breast cancer. And her first thought is she needs to spend a week on vacation with a wonderful friend. Has this woman been spying on me and my world? Did God send me this book? (I actually took a second look at the return address.)

Then I read the next chapter and fell in love with the main character. Because who doesn’t love a woman who engages in blatant cookie-dough therapy? I’m actually starting to think this book is about me. (Except that it isn’t. Because I don’t have any friends in the Netherlands.)

I dived right into the book, and couldn’t stop turning the pages because of the friendship, the spirituality, the resonance. (Besides, if it’s about me, I need to know what happens and how it ends.) This woman gets it. She gets women and their need for God and to close friends who share their beliefs.

I read about the devotional book she found on the night table of the guest room at her friend’s house, and remembered that I have a devotional book resting next to the sofabed in my guest room as well. I loved how comfortable they were discussing things of the spirit right along with the everyday, that it was such a natural part of both their lives. Because this is how my deepest friendships are too. It wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t share experiences and insights with that kind of depth and resonance.

The writing style didn’t appeal to me most of the time. I thought there were far too many descriptive details, along with every word of every conversation between the two friends. It’s kind of like hanging out with a friend who talks too much and won’t let you get a word in edgewise. In some ways I felt like I was tagging right along with them on vacation...but as the mute third wheel, eavesdropping like Gladys Kravitz. But I must admit I enjoyed the ride, even from the back seat.

As much as I enjoyed tagging along, it didn’t make me want to pick up the series and read all the rest of her books. Although it did make me want to join in the conversation. And ultimately, almost like nothing before, it made me want to write my own series of books about my own trips with my own Sisterchicks. (Except I don’t know if I can bring myself to use that word.) :)

I want to write about the life-changing hiking trip to Mammoth Resort with my friend CB, when I was deep in a post-partum depression. I want to write about my trip to the Salt Lake Temple with JH, and the great conversations we had driving up and down the canyon each day. I want to write about meeting AE in Colorado Springs, and how we saved each other’s sanity that week. I want to write about the time AS showed up at my house, unannounced, bearing two bags of Trader Joe’s goodies, and spent a wonderful week talking and cooking. I want to write about the museum trip with MB where we suddenly found ourselves conversing about the atonement with such joy in the shared discoveries. And I want to write about my amazing trip to California with MG to support her through an in vitro fertilization treatment, and the powerful effect it had on me.

My Sisterchicks (ouch! there I go, using that word again) are real. The time I spent with them was crucial, at pivotal points in my life. I honestly believe God placed them directly in my path at key moments in order to help me through some tough experiences (and vice-versa). Despite any issues I may have had with the writing, I’m grateful to have read a book that helped me remember and appreciate my own beloved soul-friends with such rich, vivid detail.


Sandy M. said...

You had to be the MUTE third wheel! That's hardly in the usual description for a sisterchick, is it? :)

Flattery. I sort of cringe in the face of it, and kind of wish I didn't so much sometimes...

On the other hand, a compliment sincerely given is a lovely gift, as of course this was to you.

Thank you for the review.

Barbaloot said...

Sounds like a book that would be good for an airplane ride. Nothing too intense, but enjoyable and familiar. Thanks for the synopsis.

Kimberly said...

I think the reason we wince a bit at "sisterchick" is because the "chick" is so very unnecessary. We are sisters. That is all the titling we need.

This past year has been so steeped in the friendship of such sisters - who inspire and uplift, who can be laughed and cried from God indeed.

Brillig said...

My dearest sisterchick,

"Did GOD send this?" hahaha. Yes, probably, but in His way (through someone else-- isn't that His usual way?)

How bizarre to find yourself reading about... yourself!

I'd LOVE to hear all of your sisterchick stories. Every. last. one of them. I would love being a mute third wheel as I read your book.

And then, with the hefty royalties you make off the book, let's gather a group of sisterchicks and go away for a week. (Do you love that I'm already spending your money for you? Yes?)

Women need each other. We really do. And YOU have always been there when I needed you. (Which is, like, on a daily basis...)

(By the way, thank you for an honest review. I like that you told the best parts and the parts that didn't work so well for you too.)

Brillig said...

Oh, and how freaking cool is it that you were selected to review/advance-read this book!?! You're a superstar!!!

Eowyn said...

You are beyond cool! This sounds like a fun read.

Now I'm thinking about my "sisterchicks" though I would never in a million years call them that. :)

Kristina P. said...

I value my sisterchicks so much. Women really need each other.

Heather of the EO said...

I want to hear YOUR sister stories too! Not that I don't want to read this book too, it would be a good beach read and I think I'd totally get it, the friendship thing...

now I'm rambling.

Sometimes I just pretend that I'm sitting and talking to you and then I make no sense.

Roban said...

This sounds like something I might like to read.... Actually, your stories sound even more interesting. Go ahead.... tell us more!

Roban said...

P.S. I'll put the Chicago aquarium and Seattle on my list of places to visit!

Kazzy said...

I prefer Sisterbabes, but I wasn't the author now, was I?

It is such a primal thing, the way we need other women. It is programmed in and as important as air and water. For me anyway.

Thanks for the review.

Sandy M. said...

I was thinking more about your post when I woke up this morning. It reminds me of a quote about sisterhood from Marjorie Pay Hinckley that I enjoy. I'm sure you've read or heard it before:

"We are all in this together. We need each other. Oh, how we need each other. Those of us who are old need you who are young, and hopefully, you who are young need some of us who are old...We need deep and satisfying and loyal friendships with each other. These friendships are a necessary source of sustenance."

I was thinking too about what I have read about the giant redwood trees - that they are able to grow tall and sturdy because below the surface their root systems spread out and entwine - they support each other.

Your blog is like a part of that root system, isn't it?

deb said...

It has taken me awhile to return to you, your words on my blog touched me so deeply. I can't begin to imagine living in the grief you must have felt in your loss,
I was summing up a life long struggle to return to those days when I knew that sweet girl. In the sweet days with family friends who adopted orphans, and then ironically I felt like one for years. It is complicated.
I wish for good sisters to share with, and I have a feeling you would be one.
Or rather are in a way, becoming.
Looking forward to reading more and getting to know you here in the blog world.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Brilliant review, honest and heartfelt. I don't think it's my kind of book but I love the idea. My 'sisterchicks' are the best and have gotten me through this year so far. It's great to acknowledge and celebrate that.

Mrs4444 said...

I loved this complete, honest review. You are so blessed to have so many rich, meaningful friendships.

Debbie said...

I just love that definition so much! How very perfect.

Allison said...

I feel so honored, but don't you realize that I need you as much (or more) than you seem to need me? Just the other day I contemplated calling you and Jeff to ask if there's going to be any filming next summer, because I need a JWP/JLP fix in a big, bad way.