Bev Tunney and Amy Schein have been best friends for years; now, at thirty, they’re at a crossroads. Bev is a Midwestern striver still mourning a years-old romantic catastrophe. Amy is an East Coast princess whose luck and charm have too long allowed her to cruise through life. Bev is stuck in circumstances that would have barely passed for bohemian in her mid-twenties: temping, living with roommates, drowning in student-loan debt. Amy is still riding the tailwinds of her early success, but her habit of burning bridges is finally catching up to her. And now Bev is pregnant.
As Bev and Amy are dragged, kicking and screaming, into real adulthood, they have to face the possibility that growing up might mean growing apart.
Friendship, Emily Gould’s debut novel, traces the evolution of a friendship with humor and wry sympathy. Gould examines the relationship between two women who want to help each other but sometimes can’t help themselves; who want to make good decisions but sometimes fall prey to their own worst impulses; whose generous intentions are sometimes overwhelmed by petty concerns.
This is a novel about the way we speak and live today; about the ways we disappoint and betray one another. At once a meditation on the modern meaning of maturity and a timeless portrait of the underexamined bond that exists between friends, this exacting and truthful novel is a revelation.
The temp agency’s application was only four pages long, but somehow Bev hadn’t managed to fill it out. She’d told herself that she would do it on the subway on the morning of the interview, but then the train was so crowded that it was impossible even to reach into her bag to get the form. Also, J. R. Pinkman was in her subway car, waving to her from his own packed corner. She smiled—it was nice to see someone she knew, in this context, to be reminded of who she was underneath her costume. “Dress corporately,” the woman at the temp agency
“Emily Gould’s new novel, Friendship, offers a vivid exploration of the missed connections and overwhelming isolation of modern urban life . . . Gould's willfully sparse prose often focuses on minutiae . . . Her novel is notably devoid of the melancholy images and flourishes more common to young fiction writers with literary aspirations. But this flat, unapologetically honest tone and fixation on the mundane are arguably what make Gould’s story unique and compulsively readable. Instead of serving up one weighty, overwrought scene after another, Gould constructs her world from exactly the same empty building blocks that make up plenty of lives today: ‘Wikipedia rabbit holes’ substitute for actual work; Twitter supplements real, face-to-face friendships; emoticons take the place of honest, direct expressions of feeling . . . Gould clearly has a knack for letting the absurdities of modern life speak for themselves . . . Friendship so knowingly and skillfully reveals the ways that a spoiled existence—spending recklessly while enduring leisurely but soul-sucking new media jobs and unnervingly detached relationships—add up to a particular form of hell. Gould details exactly how an overactive mind, with nowhere to land, runs wild in a rarefied vacuum.” —Heather Havrilesky, The Los Angeles Times“Friendship [is] a difficult and at times unpleasant look at the intense bonds women form during this tenuous period of life . . . Is a woman talking about herself, or, as is the case in Friendship, to each other, inherently dangerous? . . . Gould is, in her small way, reinventing the way things are done and what stories are told, and for some reason this reads as either hazardous or dismissible for those comfortable with the status quo . . . [Friendship] is a slim novel about the close relationship between publishing house coworkers turned "life partners," Bev Tunney and Amy Schein, two women struggling through the trials of an unforgiving New York publishing scene . . . Their relationship is penned with the same care and attention writers usually reserve for romantic love, the two bonded together with as much codependence as compassion. Friendship is rife with the anxieties that exist on the precipice of female adulthood, with the pair popping klonopins, downing cocktails and vomiting in public, wondering where the careers and the men that they were promised are as they navigate the myriad messes they’ve found themselves in . . . The narrative focus is entirely on these two flawed women and the shifting dynamic between them—men becoming mere accessories to their dramas and desires, often proving themselves selfishly incapable of handling life’s responsibilities and promptly fading out of view. Building realistic and robust female characters of this age bracket is a rarity, and in reading Friendship one is struck by how . . . innovative this simple story is. And despite how insufferable these women can be . . . you grow to be glad they’ve been put to the page, if only because it feels like they’ve never been allowed to be there before.” —Stacey May Fowles, The National Post (Canada)“There is a degree to which Friendship is, on Gould’s part, a revolutionary act, a reclaiming of the right to write something impervious to inflammatory vitriol . . . There is genuine tenderness and complication between Bev and Amy, and the novel’s best moments occur when the pair are allowed to just sit and chat about their imperfect starter lives. ‘Think of a child in my apartment that I share with my disgusting roommates!’ Bev says, pondering her options, post-pregnancy-test. ‘It’s all one big exposed, chewable wire. My baby would grow up eating roaches straight off the floor.’ Amy’s encouraging response: ‘Well, I’m sure plenty of babies do.’ . . . For much of the novel, you wish Amy would just get back to writing already — set aside the petty trappings of her aimless online life and participate in the actual world. (Go analog, honey, one thinks. Hell, go outside.) Then you realize you’re holding Emily Gould’s novel in your hands—a tangible object, real live printed matter—and things suddenly seem as if they’re looking up.” —Katie Arnold-Ratliff, The New York Times Book Review“As Gould exposes [Amy and Bev’s] messiness—their fights, mortifying Gchat convos, acts of self-sabotage — she almost dares you to judge them. But the specificity of their struggles (peanut butter soup for dinner, anyone?) and Gould’s hyperaware voice lend the story of their friendship poignance and shades of relatability. A-” —Stephan Lee, Entertainment Weekly“Because it deals with themes of female friendship and romantic hardship, Friendship will likely make a few girl-mag "beach read" lists—not entirely unfairly, as it’s a breezy, light thing. But it’s also a funny, uncomfortable book that lays bare all the anxieties of being a sort-of young woman trying to make it work in today’s world—a search for meaning that is, of course, very adult.” —Jennifer Croll, Straight.com“[An] engaging debut novel . . . Three elements . . . power it . . . The first is that the plot, after chirping along somewhat predictably for two-hundred-odd pages, suddenly veers off in a direction that struck me as genuinely harrowing and unpredictable. The second is the obvious but somehow still essential fact that this book is proudly and unapologetically about two women who do not end up competing for or otherwise sacrificing their integrity in the pursuit of men. This may seem unremarkable, but such depictions are, somewhat inexplicably, quite rare: A casual and profoundly unscientific survey suggests that the number of books that pass the famous Bechdel test is dismally low. In a perfect world, a book that offers a warm and emotionally honest depiction of a friendship between young women should not need to be cause for celebration. In ours, it is. The third element of Friendship that I found deeply admirable, even heroic, is the subtle but unmistakable current of bracing feminist anger that thrums just under its otherwise breezy surface. It’s nothing so crude as that the men in the novel are creeps, although several are. It’s that Bev and Amy exist in a world where double standards and cultural and structural biases still reign, a realization which salts the narrative in subtle and unmistakable ways. If such a concept is somehow distasteful to you, then go read a book about the Civil War or something. There will always be plenty of those, even in Brooklyn.” —Michael Lindgren, The L Magazine“More than an exploration of friendship, this novel is about what happens when the things we take for granted slip away and we are forced to come up with new ways of being . . . Gould does a fine job capturing the women’s frustrations, big and small, and the ways in which their friendship serves both as a hindrance and a means to maturing.” —Shoshana Olidort, The Chicago Tribune
“Friendship, a slim, sometimes piercing novel, is a sharply observed chronicle of the inequality inherent in even the most valued friendships.” —Alyssa Rosenberg, The Washington Post“Friendship, above all, is about the hardships of adulthood. ‘Adulthood,’ a very tossed-around phrase these days, encompasses and illuminates relationships, sex, careers, being able to pay our credit card bills on time, saying no, saying yes, going with our inexperienced guts, and understanding when we’ve won and when we’ve lost. I appreciated Friendship, because it made me feel less alone. I’m almost nothing like Amy OR Bev, but I still found comfort in their fumbling odysseys. And I think you will too.” —Gina Vaynshteyn, Hello Giggles“Set in hipster Brookly, former Gawker editor Gould’s latest centers on Bev and Amy, 30-year-olds struggling to be grown-ups in a world where moving back home while working for peanuts is often the only course. It’s a wry, sharply observed coming-of-age story for the postrecession era.” —People“There’s a difference between mere adulthood, which is legally defined, and being a grown-up, which is fuzzy and subjective. For the characters in Gould’s funny and affecting debut novel, this difference is sharply felt . . . The novel’s depiction of the dynamics of friendship—how there’s often affection and admiration mixed with envy and competition—feels authentic. Gould’s prose reads like the voice of the charmingly blunt friend you wish you had; her observations are hilarious and insightful. The portrayal of office ennui is depressingly accurate: Amy spends her time reading Wikipedia and checking Twitter, while Bev, collating papers, has a ‘flash of wanting to smash something made of flesh, her own hand or someone else’s.’ There’s a long tradition of novels about bright young women hoping to conquer New York. Many of these books culminate in glamorous self-actualization, but Friendship refuses this path. These characters must will themselves past disappointment and realistic problems—precarious finances, especially—and they don’t end up where you’d expect. What they choose—it’s the act of choosing that means everything—is as surprising as it is satisfying.” —Naoko Asano, Maclean’s