Best of Friends

( 5 )

Overview

You can have it all!

Abby Barton's TV career is taking off and now she and her husband can have the life they've always dreamed of in a lovely Irish town — at least, in theory! But when your husband takes you for granted and your teenage daughter hates you, an adoring old flame can spell danger to your seemingly perfect life. Fortunately, Abby has her friends to keep her sane. For starters, her best friend, Sally, owns a beauty salon, and Sally...

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Overview

You can have it all!

Abby Barton's TV career is taking off and now she and her husband can have the life they've always dreamed of in a lovely Irish town — at least, in theory! But when your husband takes you for granted and your teenage daughter hates you, an adoring old flame can spell danger to your seemingly perfect life. Fortunately, Abby has her friends to keep her sane. For starters, her best friend, Sally, owns a beauty salon, and Sally and her husband throw fantastic parties, where there are still more friends to be made.

Just be sure to share.

Sally's friend Lizzie makes time for everybody: her gal pals, her grown children, even her ex-husband. But when her ex finds someone new, Lizzie can't help but wonder if she'll ever love again. The women are all thrilled to meet Erin, who has moved home to Ireland from Chicago for her husband's new job. But is she cut out for small-town life, and what of the family she left behind years ago? Together and on their own, these four women are about to face highs and lows they never anticipated. Only from each other can they learn that life is for the living and that they need to grab it with both hands....

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A compulsive read."
Woman's Weekly

"Warm and delightful."
New Woman

"Compassionate and compelling."
Irish Independent

"A warm and cozy comfort read with a timely message gently delivered: Never take happiness for granted. Cathy Kelly has a very tender heart."
New York Times bestselling author Pat Gaffney

Publishers Weekly
New love, old love, tragedy and skydiving hijinks abound in this ensemble paean to female friendship, a U.K. bestseller from veteran Irish author Kelly (Someone Like You). In lovely Dunmore, Ireland, Abby Barton, the middle-aged star of the surprise hit TV show Declutter, aims to make a better life for her husband, Tom, and shy teenage daughter, Jess, but when an old love resurfaces, she risks throwing it all away. Salon owner Sally Richardson has a wonderful husband and wonderful sons-and then she learns she's got breast cancer. Blissfully married and newly pregnant, Erin Kennedy moves back to Ireland from Chicago; she hasn't been there since she discovered that her mother was actually her grandmother. And Lizzie Shanahan, divorced mother of two, is nearly bankrupting herself by planning the wedding of a lifetime for her self-involved, manipulative daughter, Debra. Kelly should have confined herself to Abby's and Erin's stories: the glimpse of a family struggling in infidelity's wake is heartfelt and moving, and Erin's fear of facing her abandoned family is beautifully drawn. But additional, unnecessary plot lines stuff an overlong book, and paper-thin, unbelievable secondary characters slow the pace (learning of Sally's death, Debra panics that now her mother's nails won't look as nice as her future mother-in-law's). But fans of Marian Keyes will savor this satisfying testament to the power of friendship and romance to soften life's blows and bolster its joys. Agent, Deborah Schneider. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743490252
  • Publisher: Downtown Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2005
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 469,473
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 1.31 (d)

Meet the Author

Cathy Kelly is the Irish bestselling author of twelve other novels, many of which have been number one bestsellers in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. She lives in Ireland with her husband and twin sons. In 2005 she was appointed an ambassador for UNICEF Ireland. Contact her on Twitter at @cathykellybooks or follow her on Facebook or at CathyKelly.com.

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Read an Excerpt

prologue

Brush hair, brush teeth, forget about eyeliner, just go for mascara and a dust of bronzer. Squirt of deodorant...blast, none left. Put that on the shopping list. Where is the shopping list, anyway...?

Sally Richardson had a million and one things on her mind as she hastily buttoned up her shirt and pulled on a pair of black trousers over skin still damp from the shower.

Friday mornings in the Richardsons' house were even more manic than usual because on Fridays and Saturdays, The Beauty Spot, the beauty salon that Sally owned and ran, opened at nine instead of half-past. That extra half-hour made a huge difference, Sally thought, every time Friday rolled round. She had to be out of the front door at eight forty-five on the nail to drop the boys at the day nursery instead of the rest of the week's more leisurely nine fifteen.

There was no time to dawdle over toast and coffee — not that much dawdling ever went on at the Richardsons', with two working parents.

Sally told her friends that she never had fantasies in which Jude Law ripped off all her clothes and told her she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen in his life. No, her fantasies were about the household running to a strict timetable, where she was perkily out of bed and showered by half-past seven (with make-up on, hair perfect and no snags in her tights), ready to drag three-year-old Daniel from his bed (four-year-old Jack would already be up and beheading a few Action Men). Dressing the boys and getting breakfast ready would happen without too much cereal ending up on the floor and without small boys squabbling, and there might even be time for Sally to share a cup of coffee with Steve before he raced out of the door at eight twenty. Of course, this was the stuff of daydreams, as Sally often admitted to her mother-in-law, Delia. (She nearly told Delia about the Jude Law thing but then thought better of it. Delia was more of a Sean Connery woman, anyway.)

"It can't be good for the image of a beauty salon when the owner arrives out of breath, without a screed of make-up on her face and her shirt buttoned up all wrong," Sally had once pointed out.

But Delia, who knew how hard her daughter-in-law worked and thought she looked just as good with her creamy skin and flashing dark eyes free of cosmetics, laughed and said that early morning rushing was the working mother's daily marathon. "I was as slim as you when Steve and Amy were young, and now look at me," she said ruefully. "Upholstered hips and arms like a weightlifter."

"You look great," chided Sally, who adored her mother-in-law and treated her like a surrogate mum. Her own had died of cancer when Sally had been only twenty.

Kids definitely kept you thin, Sally decided on this particular Friday morning in February. She'd been up for an hour and still hadn't managed more than a sip of tea because Danny had upended his Rice Pops all over his jeans and sweater, necessitating a complete change. The toaster had decided to have one of its off days and burned Steve's toast to charcoal, setting off the smoke detector.

"Damn!" came his muttered voice from the hall where he was attempting to silence the alarm.

"Damn, damn, damn," repeated Danny happily, at the kitchen table, where he was having a good go at spilling more cereal.

"Damn, damn, damn," joined in Jack, banging his spoon against his fortunately empty dish.

Sally, foreseeing days of "damns" morning, noon and night, sighed. "Language," she mouthed at Steve when he appeared a moment later, fiddling with his cuff.

"Sorry," he said. "Forgot. The button popped off while I was reaching up. Where's the thread?"

Sally prised the last bit of charcoal from the toaster. "To be honest, Steve, you have a better chance of finding another clean shirt than of finding a needle and thread anywhere in this house. Will I iron you another one?"

"No, love, thanks. You don't have time. I'll do it." Steve leaned over his tiny wife and planted a kiss on the top of her head.

Steve was six foot two while Sally was a petite five three. "I never realised how ridiculous we looked together until I saw our wedding photos," she would joke. Height aside, they made a handsome couple, Sally's elfin, dark-haired, dark-eyed looks a dramatic contrast to her husband's clean-cut features, fair hair and unusual rich brown eyes. The boys took after their mother, their inky black eyes, like hers, gleaming with mischief.

Steve was not a natural with the iron and he grumbled as he wrestled with another shirt. "Today of all days, with the boss leaving, and I'm late as it is..."

"If the worst thing that happens today is your shirt button and this pair screaming 'damn' when your mother comes to mind them this afternoon, then we're doing fine," Sally pointed out.

Steve nodded, teasingly. "You're right, Pollyanna."

"I'm not Pollyanna," protested his wife. "It's just that Mum always used to say count your — "

" — blessings. I know." Steve pulled on his ironed shirt and then drained his coffee.

"I don't want to be a pain in the you-know-what," Sally went on earnestly, "like some Goody Two-Shoes always looking on the bright side."

"You're not," Steve said, shoving the ironing board away with a clatter. "But your optimism is one of the things I love about you. C'mere."

They exchanged a proper kiss this time.

"Mummy, what's a pain in the you-know-what?" asked Jack innocently.

His parents laughed, then Steve picked up his jacket from the back of a kitchen chair. "Bye, brats," he said, kissing his beloved sons.

"Bye, Daddy," they chorused.

"Bye, Pollyanna." He ducked as though Sally might throw something at him.

"You're the brat!" she yelled good-humouredly.

The front door slammed and Sally glanced at the clock. Eight thirty-two. Blast. Late again and Danny was only a quarter of the way through his cereal. She sat down beside her younger son and urged him to hurry up, which inevitably made him slow down. Danny had a stubborn streak.

Ruffling his unruly hair lovingly, she thought of how lucky she was, having Steve and the boys. Steve might tease her about it, but her mantra had always been that you shouldn't take anything for granted in this life.

As her mum used to say: you never knew what was around the corner.

Copyright © 2003 by Cathy Kelly

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Introduction

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Why do you think Abby, Lizzie and Erin think of the Richardsons as the ideal happy family?

2. Why do you think Erin wants to find her family after so many years?

3. With the state of Tom & Abby's marriage, do you think her affair with old flame Jay was inevitable

4. Do you think there were better ways for Abby & Tom to deal with their breakup? How did the situation affect Jess?

5. What do you think of Tom's reaction to Abby's affair? Why do you think they were able to move on after Jess was found in Galway?

6. There is some tension between Debra and Lizzie when Debra moves back home-why do you think they treaded each other as they did? Do you think Debra will get back together with husband Barry?

7. Lizzie decides to make a list of things to do before she's 50. If you had to make such a list, what would you put on yours?

8. How has each character changed throughout the course of the book? How have their friendships changed?

9. How does Erin deal with meeting Shannon again after all these years? How does Greg help Erin to accept her? Do you think Shannon will keep in touch with Erin, Greg, and their baby?

10. After Sally received the grave diagnosis, each of her friends wondered, 'What do you say to someone who's dying?' (p. 214). In what ways do Sally's friends provide comfort?

11. How does Sally's death affect each of the characters? How did it affect you?

12. In Best of Friends, each character brings something special to their friendships. Which qualities do you value in a friend? Which ones do you possess?

13. What do you think is the novel's message?

Cathy Kelly is the author of sixother novels, all of which were #1 bestsellers in Ireland, as well as top ten bestsellers in England. Someone Like You was the Parker RNA Romantic Novel of the Year. Look for her story in Irish Girls About Town, also available from Downtown Press. Cathy lives in County Wicklow, Ireland, with her partner and their two sons.

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Reading Group Guide

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Why do you think Abby, Lizzie and Erin think of the Richardsons as the ideal happy family?

2. Why do you think Erin wants to find her family after so many years?

3. With the state of Tom & Abby's marriage, do you think her affair with old flame Jay was inevitable

4. Do you think there were better ways for Abby & Tom to deal with their breakup? How did the situation affect Jess?

5. What do you think of Tom's reaction to Abby's affair? Why do you think they were able to move on after Jess was found in Galway?

6. There is some tension between Debra and Lizzie when Debra moves back home-why do you think they treaded each other as they did? Do you think Debra will get back together with husband Barry?

7. Lizzie decides to make a list of things to do before she's 50. If you had to make such a list, what would you put on yours?

8. How has each character changed throughout the course of the book? How have their friendships changed?

9. How does Erin deal with meeting Shannon again after all these years? How does Greg help Erin to accept her? Do you think Shannon will keep in touch with Erin, Greg, and their baby?

10. After Sally received the grave diagnosis, each of her friends wondered, 'What do you say to someone who's dying?' (p. 214). In what ways do Sally's friends provide comfort?

11. How does Sally's death affect each of the characters? How did it affect you?

12. In Best of Friends, each character brings something special to their friendships. Which qualities do you value in a friend? Which ones do you possess?

13. What do you think is the novel's message?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2007

    Ireland's Finest Author: Cathy Kelly

    This book was so beautifully and heart wrenchingly written... I loved this book so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!My tears flowed and I was left feeling as if I had lost Sally's friendship too.All the women in this book were so down to earth and I could easily identify with them and their situations. Thank you for writing such a treasure Cathy Kelly!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    deep character study

    Abby Barton has become a famous TV personality with the success of her show ¿Declutter: Your Home and Your Life¿. However, she feels pressure on all sides from her producer to her spouse, but mostly her reticent teenage daughter Jess.--- Medical receptionist Lizzie Shanahan nurtures everyone but herself. However, in spite of caring for patients, her adult children and even her former husband Myles, Lizzie feels alone; her despondency is augmented by Myles finding a new love in his life.--- After a decade in the States, Erin Kennedy and her spouse Greg return to Ireland where he begins a new job in Cork. However, she worries about returning to Ireland after fleeing from her family years ago to live in Boston, and Chicago.--- Sally Richardson is contented with raising her children with a loving spouse, but her happiness is tempered by cancer. When she dies, her three friends, who believed they had the weight of the world on their back, learn what life is all about.--- The four subplots are handled with dexterity so though rotated in no obvious order; readers with a degree of difficulty will be able keep track of how each of the key females feels. Readers will care about these women and hope for the best for each of them. The character driven subplots are complex and interesting as the surviving trio begins to appreciate what they already have. Cathy Kelly furbishes a fine tale with the moral of live life to the fullest with loved ones for one day you will be an angel sitting on a cloud looking down hopefully with joy towards those you cherish.--- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2007

    Not up to par

    Not one of Kelly's best. I was very disappointed. I loved all the others, but this was so boring.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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