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Best Friends

Best Friends

3.6 36
by Martha Moody

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Martha Moody's national bestseller—a compassionate and tender novel about best friends from college. A testament to the power of female friendship.

When Clare Mann arrives at Oberlin in 1973, she’s never met anyone like Sally Rose. Rich and beautiful, Sally is utterly foreign to a middle-class, Midwestern Protestant like Clare—and


Martha Moody's national bestseller—a compassionate and tender novel about best friends from college. A testament to the power of female friendship.

When Clare Mann arrives at Oberlin in 1973, she’s never met anyone like Sally Rose. Rich and beautiful, Sally is utterly foreign to a middle-class, Midwestern Protestant like Clare—and utterly fascinating. The fascination only grows when Sally brings her home to L.A. Mr. Rose—charismatic, charming, and owner of a profitable business shrouded in secrey—is nearly as compelling a figure to Clare as he is to his own daughter. California seems like paradise after winters in Ohio. And Clare begins to look forward desperately to these visits, to carefree rides in Sally’s Kharmann Ghia and lazy poolside days.

As the years pass, Clare becomes a doctor and Sally a lawyer, always remaining roommates at heart, a plane ride or phone call away. Marriages and divorces and births and deaths do not separate them. But secrets might—for as Clare watches, the Rose family begins to self-destruct before her eyes. And the things she knows are the kinds of things that no one wants to tell a best friend.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
An energetic, if not always persuasive, attempt to detail why a friendship made in college between two women endures despite family scandals, different lifestyles, and the men they marry and divorce. Narrator Clare Man meets Sally Rose in 1973 at Oberlin College, where the two freshmen are assigned to share a room. Wealthy, Jewish Sally comes from California. Protestant, middle-class Clare is a native of Ohio. Sally is devoted to her family, especially father Sid, a publisher, who calls every day. Clare is impatient with her family, especially with her mother, a teacher. Though Clare is a free spirit, Sally more reserved and cautious, the two soon become close friends. Clare's summer visit to the Rose home further cements the attachment; soon Sid, mother Esther, and younger brother Ben become as much her family as Sally's. But there are no perfect families, not even in exciting, warm California. As Clare becomes a doctor, marries and divorces twice, gives birth to a daughter, and works with AIDS patients, the Rose family falls apart. Sally, now a lawyer, marries handsome Flavio, only to find him seducing Ben one day in the pool house. Ben then becomes a heroin addict; Esther commits suicide; and Sally tries to help her brother by buying drugs for him. Eventually, when Clare learns that Sid publishes brutally graphic pornography and may also be implicated in Ben's recent death, she nearly stops seeing Sally. But true friendship survives all kinds of blows (there are more to come, too), and the women enter middle age as close as ever. Newcomer Moody, a Ohio-based physician, is at her best evoking the period, from the last days of college protests to the onset of AIDS. She is lesssuccessful in showing just why Sally was so important to Clare. Despite good intentions, more about the idea of a friendship than the reality.
From the Publisher
"[Moody] captures the feel of things, the complexity of human lives, and the ability of time to expose and to heal." ---Josephine Humphreys, author of Nowhere Else on Earth

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

by Martha Moody



"You'll definitely see elements of yourself and your girlfriends in this terrific novel," is how Redbook described Best Friends—which may explain why this first novel from an unknown author has been quietly building to a surprising hardcover success. It's the kind of book that is shared among friends, an instantly familiar and emotionally immediate story of two women who become college roommates, confidantes, and friends for life.

Clare, from a working-class Protestant family, has never met anyone like Sally: wealthy, pretty, and Jewish, barely emancipated from her close-knit Los Angeles family. Over the decades, Clare is drawn deeper into the circle of Sally's family—until she uncovers the kind of secret that no one wants to tell a best friend.



Martha Moody is a physician. Her short story, "Like the Arrival of Angels", was a finalist for the Best American Short Stories of 1985. Best Friends is her first novel.



  1. Discuss Clare's first impression of Sally. How accurate is it? Based on Clare's comparisons of herself to her new roommate, what is your first impression of Clare? Despite their rocky beginning, Clare and Sally become great friends in college. What do you think they find appealing in one another?

  2. Even though they are best friends, Sally and Clare keep certain secrets from one another. Discuss some of the secrets each keeps and why. Are they only trying to protect one another, or do they have selfish motives at heart? How does this affect their friendship, in the long run?

  3. How would you explain Sally's intense desire to be part of a "unit"? Does either Sally or Clare ever become a unit in a romantic relationship? What do you make of Clare's telling Sally (page 436), "We're the unit." Do you agree? Why do you think Sally reacts as she does?

  4. Sally and Clare choose demanding careers. How do their professions, law and medicine, validate and/or challenge their images of each other? How does each change in her own estimation?

  5. How did Sally and Clare's friendship change throughout the novel? Do you think they became closer over time, or less so? Why do you think they were able to remain friends, even as their lives and perceptions of one another changed?

  6. When Sally first finds out how her father made his fortune, she is at pains to justify it to herself and to Clare. She mentions her college boyfriend, Timbo, as an example of someone who was "a victim of sex" and says that "maybe adult magazines, by bringing things out into the open, make people less likely to be victims" (page 167). Do you agree? Can you think of some other characters in the book whom Sally might characterize as victims of sex?

  7. Discuss the impact Sid Rose's business has on his family. What role does it play in Sally's formation? In Ben's demise? In Sid's marriage? What do you make of Sid's targeting the gay pornography market, in light of his prejudice against gay people? Do you believe his assertion that it is only about increasing his profits?

  8. Both Clare and Sally are very close to their fathers. When Clare shares her suspicion that her father embezzled money from the medical practice he managed, Sally defends him: "Oh, Clare. If he did it, he did it for you" (page 66). Sid Rose makes a similar argument to defend his business to his daughter. How does Clare's father's moral lapse compare to Sid Rose's? Does his relative poverty make his crime less blameworthy, in your opinion? Is there a connection between Clare's disgust with Sid Rose and her forgiveness of her own father? Does Sally ever forgive her father?

  9. Sally and Clare both long for children. Does having children help them heal their distant relationships with their own mothers? How does motherhood affect their friendship? What do you make of Clare's "obvious disappointment" at Sally's third pregnancy (page 305)? How does Sally feel about Clare's choices?

  10. Were you surprised at the lengths Sally went to, after Esther's death, to keep Ben in "happy families"? Were her actions justifiable? In the end, is Sally as complicit in Ben's death as their father? Why do you think Clare goes with Sally on her mission, even though she is initially disgusted by the idea? In your opinion, does Esther also share some measure of responsibility?

  11. "The Roses had wilted...They'd become like anybody else, any sad and bickering little family. My magical L.A. nights with them were gone" (page 121). Discuss Clare's initial, glowing attraction to the Rose family and its eventual tarnish. How does it compare to her relationship with her own family?

  12. What do you make of the fraught relationship between Clare and Sid Rose? Why do you think Sid chooses to make his "confession" to Clare? How does this affect Clare and Sally's friendship?

  13. Do you think that Sid Rose killed his son? Why or why not?

What People are Saying About This

Diane Vreuls
Moody is brilliant at exposing just how emotionally and morally complex a friendship can be. This book is a gift.
— (Diane Vreuls, author of Are We There Yet? and Sums: A Looking Game)
From the Publisher
“[Moody] captures the feel of things, the complexity of human lives, and the ability of time to expose and to heal.” —-Josephine Humphreys, author of Nowhere Else on Earth

Meet the Author

Martha Moody, a private practice internist for fifteen years, currently volunteers as medical director at a clinic for the working poor.

Actor and voice-over artist Renee Raudman has performed on film, television, radio, and stage. A multiple Audie Award nominee, she has garnered several AudioFile Earphones Awards, a Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Award, and numerous starred reviews.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Best Friends 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
EmberA More than 1 year ago
It kept my interest but I wouldnt say it was a good book. It seemed to drag in parts.
Pheebs More than 1 year ago
I really like this book, I've had a friend read and she liked it as well. I recommend it to anyone! =)
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book and never expected it to be so addicitve! The stories just mesmerize you and Clare and Sally seem to just pop off the pages. I could not put this book down! To me this book really shows the life of a best friendship and all the changes that life can bring to that friendship. This book made me appreciate my best friend a litte more!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Good story about two girlfriends over the years who shared college, relationships, kids and death of parents. Feels like you are part of their lives and I hated to see the story end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yes and do you just want to join a different xlan because our other clan is getting destroyed...
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cafekate128 More than 1 year ago
I found Best Friends to be a decent book. I enjoyed the diverse characters and the realistic portrayal of innocent and not-so-innocent characters, especially regarding Clare, the main character. This book doesn't shy away from any controversial topics!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I am an avid reader and enjoy all genres, but this was possibly the worst book I ever read. There was literally no story line and Sally and Clare were extremely unlikeable characters. In fact, I disliked every character in this book. It took me over 2 weeks to finish the book 'normally takes me 2 days to read a book' and those are two weeks I will never get back. I would not recommend this book to anyone! I can't believe it was a national bestseller....
Guest More than 1 year ago
Best Friends, by Martha Moody was first published June 4, 2002. It was Moody¿s first attempt at a novel, and a bit of a rocky one. Though, Best Friends was named a National Bestseller, the book received countless negative reviews. The story, told in first person through the main character, Claire Mann, chronicles 20 or so years of a friendship between Claire and Sally that birthed during their freshman year of college as roommates. Together they go through deaths, births, new jobs, and a slew of men. Moody is fairly new to the writing scene. A physician from Dayton, Ohio, her first piece of literature was short story titled ¿Like the Arrival of Angels¿ that was a finalist for The Best American Short Stories. She also occasionally writes articles for the Dayton Jewish Observer under the byline Martha Moody Jacobs. Most readers say Best Friends is missing one key detail: a dramatic ending. After numerous dramatic scenes of death, drug use, and pornography, it leaves readers expecting something tragic to end the twisted tale of these two friends. However, the fact that no such dramatic ending exists enhances the reality of the novel. Rarely in life are there dramatic endings that solve all the problems. People, or in this case characters, must learn to cope with their hardships and go on living. Moody uses an adequate amount of dialogue that is both clear and concise to portray her characters. However, oftentimes there is no attribution indicating who is saying what. Re-reading the passage may be necessary to get the full grasp of the scene. However, Moody also employs a soliloquy-like prose in which Claire¿s thoughts run rampant. These long entries of her thoughts are responsible for much of the plot and character development. This method is adequate based on the style of the novel as a whole, but a bit juvenile as a writing style. A suggested audience for Best Friends is females between the ages of 18 and 40 because anyone between those ages can relate to the college experience, marriage, divorce, or childbearing. Aspects of the novel such as the pornography and the AIDS epidemic restrict the novel to at least a PG-13 level and limit the audience around 40s due to cultural differences. Since the publication of Best Friends, Moody has written her second novel titled The Office of Desire that was released Aug. 2, 2007.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Was expecting something like Summer Sisters. I couldn't stand Sally Rose for an hour let alone a lifetime! She was so annoying! It was completely ridiculous and boring.
Guest More than 1 year ago
LOVED this book. Actually, just re-read it and then bought it for my best friend, who, unfortunately, she and I had a mini-falling out. This is a sweeping, realistic story that tugs at many heartstrings. Well-written!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This Book is real good. and i love the author's detail and her adjectives are just marvelous. this is simply a book that i couldn't put down
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love this book. I've had trouble putting it down. I really like the author's style, how she tells little stories and interconnects them all shortly thereafter. I also like the lack of 'fluff' writing. The author gets down to the point and doesn't bother with all the descriptive adjectives. I definitely recommend this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story came to life. The family did have problems but it was in relations to every family, but a little bit more out there. It was a wonderful read. I picked it up for some light reading and than i couldn't put it down it was detailed and kept you guessing. I loved it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Too easy to put down and NOT pick back up. Boring and a waste of time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading Best Friends. I loved how Clare would have a few paragraphs where she skipped into the future and then went back later to explain how these things came about. Martha Moody is an amazing author and I can't wait until her next book
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not so much about best friends as it was about how creepy one family can get. Sally's immediate family and their pursuits were ridiculous. The author set up plots so far in advance, I could have skipped several chapters and saved myself some time. A real disappointment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've yet to finish this book it is such a slow read.... just get on with it. So drawn out I cant stomach another page & I'm 3/4 of the way done with it. - Very disappointed.