From sharing secrets as children to chasing unconventional dreams as adults, network correspondent Sara James and wildlife filmmaker Ginger Mauney explore their learning curve on life through the lens of their thirty-year friendship

Transplanting southern roots to southern Africa, Ginger Mauney has earned the acceptance of a troop of baboons, unraveled mysteries of life and death in an elephant herd, and raised her young son in the wilds of Namibia—but has often felt the pull ...

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The Best of Friends

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From sharing secrets as children to chasing unconventional dreams as adults, network correspondent Sara James and wildlife filmmaker Ginger Mauney explore their learning curve on life through the lens of their thirty-year friendship

Transplanting southern roots to southern Africa, Ginger Mauney has earned the acceptance of a troop of baboons, unraveled mysteries of life and death in an elephant herd, and raised her young son in the wilds of Namibia—but has often felt the pull of the country she once called home. As a local television anchor, Sara James paid her own way to cover the war in Nicaragua, a gamble that later propelled her to NBC. At the network, James exposed slavery in Sudan and plunged to the gravesite of the Titanic, but struggled to balance her demanding career with marriage and motherhood.

Though the two lead seemingly opposite lives, there is much they share: a hometown in Richmond, Virginia, an attraction to life on the razor's edge, a weakness for men with foreign passports and accents, and a past. Now, in their heartfelt memoir, Mauney and James alternately narrate the story of how, they, two women separated by thousands of miles, have found themselves bound together through temperament, circumstance, and serendipity. The Best of Friends uses the example of their lives to explore such universal questions as: When your heart is broken, how do you heal? How do you realize your dreams without compromising yourself? How do you tame ambition to make room for love and family? And what does it mean as an adult to be a "best" friend?

The Best of Friends is James and Mauney's story, but it is also the story of so many women in their twenties, thirties, and forties who, with the help of friends, dared to reinvent their lives just when it seemed that everything was falling apart.

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Editorial Reviews

Heather Byer
The Best of Friends seems to address ambititon as much as friendship, and how the drive to explore, and succeed, shaped these women—their relationships, careers and families—who entered the work force in the 1980s.This lively dual memoir presents their stories candidly…The adventures described in The Best of Friends are fascinating, but the women's voices are virtually indistinguishable, and sometimes it seems we're reading a script for a sitcom, with the obligatory repartee about men and dating and clothes peppered throughout the narrative. The substance comes when they write about their work.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Mauney, a freelance wildlife filmmaker based in Namibia, and James, a news correspondent for NBC Nightly News, Datelineand other programs, have maintained a remarkable friendship since they were both 12-year-old girls growing up in the genteel circles of Richmond, Va. While their mothers' generation was expected to marry socially suitable husbands, their daughters grew up with wider possibilities. Mauney left Richmond to become arm-candy for a world-class tennis player, who dropped her just when she was beginning to look for a wedding ring. James was too busy building a career in broadcasting to put much energy into finding a man. It wasn't until Mauney's romance hit bottom that the two became close again. In alternating chapters, they record their unfolding lives from their mid-20s through their 40s, with Mauney working in rural Africa and James in fast-lane New York City. Their divergent paths turn out to be quite parallel in the end, as they contemplate their children's developing friendship. By giving sensitive support to each other at key moments, these two women both found their way to balancing marriage, motherhood and creative careers. Their book—a sweet summer read—pays tribute to the advances that feminism brought to a generation of young women and to the enduring value of female friendship. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Friends from the age of 12, when they first shared secrets at a sleepover party, two women look back over the years of friendship that sustained them through the ups and downs of their at times parallel lives. James, a television correspondent (Dateline, Today) and Mauney, a wildlife filmmaker (National Geographic Explorer, etc.), reconnected in their 20s, after James, then a fledgling reporter, tracked down Mauney, who was floundering after being dropped by her tennis-playing celebrity boyfriend. While Mauney struggled to find her place in the world of work, James's career successes increased, and she landed a long-hoped-for job with the NBC network. After years in Africa, where Mauney fell in love with the African bush while working with a veterinarian filming a troop of baboons, she gradually learned the craft of filmmaking. She eventually married the veterinarian and had a baby in her late 30s. Meanwhile, James, who was living in New York City, married and divorced, took on hazardous assignments in hot spots around the globe, fell in love with and eventually married a young Australian reporter and had not one but two late babies. The women tell their stories in alternating chapters, each covering a year or two and filled with details of daily life and concerns about love, work, men, marriage and motherhood. They are supportive of each other, sharing each other's trials and triumphs, visiting when they can and telephoning and emailing frequently. The strength of their mature friendship, which seemed rather tenuous at the beginning, is unmistakable, and these warm, southern women-Richmond, Va., is their hometown-talk freely and often about the depth of their feelings for each other. Awarm, fuzzy read that, with its insights into the often complicated lives of career women, could be a favorite of women's reading groups. Agent: Elyse Cheney/Elyse Cheney Literary Associates
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061844669
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • File size: 882 KB

Meet the Author

Sara James is an Emmy Award-winning correspondent and anchor who has reported for Dateline, the Today show, and NBC Nightly News. She lives in New York City with her husband and their two daughters.

Filmmaker Ginger Mauney has lived and worked in Namibia for sixteen years. Her films have aired on National Geographic Explorer, PBS, Channel 4 (UK), and in more than fifty countries worldwide. She lives in Namibia with her husband and their son.

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First Chapter

The Best of Friends
Two Women, Two Continents, and One Enduring Friendship

Chapter One

Ginger (1983-1985)

I took a deep breath. Slowly breathing in, concentrating on calming my wired nerves, and trying hard to ignore the churning in my stomach, I let go, breathing out and glancing up. Against a deep blue sky, the sun had finally broken through the clouds, matching the heat and intensity on the court. The smell of fresh-cut grass, grunts, and explosive clapping filled the air. Freckle-faced ball boys and girls, their lean limbs nearly as white as the players' tennis clothes, ran determinedly after each ball. Precise arm movements judged every fault, affirmed every winner. Passion and pageantry, and I simply couldn't believe I was here, courtside Wimbledon, a long, long way from home in Richmond, Virginia.

For years I'd dreamed of running away from home, leaving the azalea bushes, church bells, and slammed doors behind, but at twenty-one years old, I'd never thought I'd get so far so fast. When I was a child, the idea of escaping the ordinary seemed pure fantasy, and I believed more in the magic of miracles to transform my life than in my own tender nascent power. If there was an Oz, and like Dorothy I wished hard enough, I too could escape a predictable existence for a yellow brick road to adventure.

With a deep attachment to the land in Virginia, my family provided love and security, but few role models in running away. For generations they'd lived in farm-houses rooted deeply in the history of the South, with the church being the center of their small community. Outside its white wood-framed structure with the bell hanginghigh in the steeple, my ancestors put flowers on headstones in family plots where the names varied little. Inside the same church, my great-grandmother, great-aunts, grandmother, mother, and cousins had all married, most pledging their love to one of the boys who plowed the fields next door. Growing up, I had tried to peer behind my older sister Marsha's big brown eyes. I could see she was dreaming of another life, but as puberty struck, she kept her dreams to herself. So I moved forward alone, blindly putting my faith and future in the power of wishful thinking.

At twelve years old, by chance, I found an ally who shared my longing to break away: Sara James. Though we were from the same suburban side of the tracks, Sara and I knew each other only in passing. In the hall at school, Sara on her way to honors English, me on my way to gymnastics practice. Passing in cars, Sara waving on her way to the Governor's School for the Gifted, me on my way to cheerleading camp. Sara was taken seriously and I was seen to be about as serious as the last pep rally. Although she hung out with other straight-A students, Sara didn't share their air of arrogance. Every school clique wanted her as a member, and she moved easily from one to another, a part and apart. This openness made Sara approachable. When I spoke to her, I felt like she was really listening, not worried about a boyfriend waiting down the hall or a gaggle of friends from the Honor Society, sneering, wondering why she should be talking to me.

But at that time in our lives, conversations between Sara and me were few. Despite the friendly waves, we remained acquaintances, separated by perceptions: Sara smart, me pretty, and never the two shall meet. But one night we did, pretty Sara with her auburn hair and intense green eyes and me smartly daring to expose more of myself than the blond-haired, blue-eyed façade. At a friend's sleepover party, we shared secrets, whispered in the dark, confidences from the past that had shaped who we were. Other secrets were dreams that would inspire us and form the women we would become. Lying on the floor watching the stars fade, we found words for a desire to run away in search of a life full of adventure, intrigue, and wonder. We just needed a way out.

And now, nine years later, I'd found mine. On the grass courts of Wimbledon, my boyfriend Kevin Curren was on the verge of the tournament's biggest upset. Smelling blood, the fans filled the grandstands until they overflowed. Players lined the balcony overlooking court 2—the "graveyard court"—sensing a changing of the guard. The press area bulged with reporters and photographers waiting to document the rise or fall of a champion. Punching volleys, diving for impossible shots, tumbling on the grass, glaring across the net, whispers as sides were changed—all of it was part of an incredible physical and mental contest.

After more than two hours on court, the scores were level in the fourth set. Six games all. Tie break. As Kevin prepared to serve, I ran my hands through my hair for the hundredth time, pushing a strand into the claws of my earring. I'd only had these earrings, a college graduation present from my parents, for a month. I remembered opening the pretty paper and finding a Canon camera box underneath. My smile faded. A camera? Why? I'd never wanted to be the one taking pictures. Then I'd spotted the tiny black velvet box nestled inside and opened it to find a pair of diamond earrings in a beautiful antique setting. They were perfect, plus there were plenty of professional photographers courtside at Wimbledon, with multiple cameras slung around their necks. Instinctively I rubbed the sparkling stones for good luck. Kevin tossed the ball, low, and struck it hard. I looked down, unable to watch, twisting the sapphire ring on my finger, and listened. I heard the ball hit the strings, again and again and again. I heard the players grunt, felt the intake of air from the spectators around me, and then I heard the crowd roar. I looked up in time to see Kevin punching the air with his fist. "Game, set, match, Mr. Curren." He'd done it; he'd beaten Jimmy Connors, the defending champion.

The Best of Friends
Two Women, Two Continents, and One Enduring Friendship
. Copyright © by Sara James. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2007

    Great story of friendship

    While this book is a great story of friendship, and how friendships can withstand and grow from time apart 'geographically', it is also a very engaging story of two women and their individual quests for meaning in their lives. I very much enjoyed reading about the challenges they faced in their careers and personal lives, and how they ultimately came to the understanding of what truly is most important in life. Two remarkable women who should be an inspiration to us all to cherish the most important friendships of our lives, and to persevere on your quest for happiness. A great read for a woman questioning her choices and comparing herself to those around her.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2007

    honest and real

    Wonderfully written,I felt like I was a fly on the wall watching the lives of these two women develop, mature and blossom into the women they were supposed to be, teaching the rest of is about how valuable real friendship can be.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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