Wolitzer gives us six friends, who met at an arts camp in the summer of 1974 when they were teenagers and follows them through their lives to middle age. The book is 468 pages long, and I didn't want it to end. The book is mature, feminist, loving, harsh, sad, privileged and privilege aware and truth telling. It's both big and small, in that in covering several characters over thirty years it's rather epic, but it's more about the passive reality of its characters lives than what happens to them.
On the topic of being simultaneously big and small, this bit reminds me of something I wrote in my zine about a friend's death and summer solstice night:
"She wondered if Dennis had been able to turn up a spatula from one of the still unpacked boxes, and then she thought, Oh, Ash's mother is dead. The spatula and the death of Betsy Wolf occupied the same part of her brain, briefly given equal weight."
Because I'm always freaking out about getting older, I found the passages about the characters remembrances of their youth and the connections they made to each other then poignant, and more touching than the telling of those experiences while they were having them.
Here's a nostalgic bit mixed in with a little preservation theory for extra points:
"She'd been swimming back to this place all this time, though she hadn't known she'd ever get back or that when she got here it would be similar to what it had been, due to the Wunderlichs' diligence. It was as though Manny and Edie had been curators of art, preservationists of a past that, if not carefully maintained, would be forgotten like a lost civilization."
"I know we live in a very sexist world, and a lot of boys do nothing except get in trouble, until one day they grow up and dominate every aspect of society."
"Though he hadn't been born into privilege, he too had been helped up the ladder over time, though the talent he possessed was squarely his."
"But in a lot of ways she could never leave her family drama, and I get that. The past is so tenacious. It's just as true for me. Everyone basically has one aria to sing over their entire life, and this one is hers."