What’s so special about the 11 women who grew up together in Ames, Iowa, who are the subject of Jeffrey Zaslow’s The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship? Well, nothing really — and yet, in another sense, everything. With this book, Zaslow, who writes The Wall Street Journal‘s “Moving On” column, has set out to explore long-term female friendships — what makes them tick, how they evolve, what they mean to women — selecting this tightly bound group who grew up amid midwestern cornfields in the ’60s and ’70s and came of age in the ’80s, specifically because they are so typical. “Born at the end of the baby boom, their memories are evocative of their times,” Zaslow writes. “Born in the middle of the country, they now live everywhere else, but carry Ames with them. Their story is universal, even common, and on that level it can’t help but resonate with any woman who has ever had a friend.” To be sure, the particulars of these women’s stories — their personal tragedies, joys, and inside jokes — are all their own. (Though a few years after they were teenagers driving around Iowa in their clunker cars, looking for a party, experimenting with alcohol and sex, and learning where they fit in, I was doing the same thing with my friends in my own Illinois town.) So while Karla, Kelly, Marilyn, Jane, Jenny, Karen, Cathy, Angela, Sally, Diana, and Sheila may be nothing like your friends from high school, or mine, their shared experiences and continuing bonds are something many of us can recognize. And to appreciate their friendships is to appreciate our own.