With “The Friends We Keep,” author Jane Green goes back to her British roots and sets this novel in the countryside of England. The story begins at West Country University where three freshman from very different places become fast friends. Two, Topher and Evvie, are from the US. Maggie is very British.
But once they meet on the first day at the university, their friendship is strong and they become roommates and vow to stay friends forever once they graduate. But life intrudes on friendships, and in this case the friends end up on different continents and with very different issues in their lives. Evvie becomes a top model, struggling to stay thin although she loves to eat. Topher becomes the star of a soap opera, eventually “coming out” through a memoir and at the same time revealing a childhood secret that haunted him. Maggie achieves part of what she always wanted — she marries and lives in a beautiful manor home in the British countryside — but her husband is an alcoholic, and they cannot have children.
The years go by, and we learn how each of the friends faces difficulties in their personal lives and how those difficulties serve to keep them apart. But when thirty years later, they meet up at their university reunion, they realize how much their friendship means to them. While each of the three has baggage from the past, their friendship seems unshaken — even after all those years. But when Evvie’s son visits, that friendship is shaken, perhaps irretrievably.
Green makes readers think about important questions regarding what family really is and how much we are the keepers of others in our families. Are there situations in which dishonesty is the right thing to do? Can friendship survive betrayal? And the most important questions: Don’t we all secretly want to move to the English countryside, live in a manor home, and visit the local pub?
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Berkley, for review purposes.