The Girls from Ames

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The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship

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Meet the Author

Jeffrey Zaslow
Jeffrey Zaslow
Journalist Jeffrey Zaslow wrote the story that focused international attention on Randy Pausch, a terminally ill Carnegie Mellon professor whose unforgettable "last lecture" became an Internet sensation. Zaslow and Pausch expanded the talk into a bestselling book, published in 2008, scant months before Pausch's death. Zaslow is also the author of several nonfiction narratives, including 2009's The Girls from Ames.


Jeffrey Zaslow is one of a handful of journalists who have carved successful careers out of the human side of reportage. In 1987, while working for the Wall Street Journal, he learned of a competition sponsored by the Chicago Sun-Times to replace retired advice columnist Ann Landers. Seeking an angle for a feature story, he entered the contest and ended up winning the job over a field of more than 12,000 applicants. He worked for the Sun Times from 1987 until 2001, dispensing sage, common-sense advice and using his journalistic influence to benefit several charities and community causes.

Zaslow has returned to writing for Wall Street Journal, but his features, unlike those of his colleagues, are not centered on the world of finance. In an award-winning column called "Moving On," he chronicles the often emotionally charged human interest stories behind various life transitions -- from marriage to divorce and from career change to retirement. It was in pursuit of just such a story that he found his greatest fame.

In 2007, Zaslow learned about an unusual event to be held at his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University. A computer science professor named Randy Pausch was scheduled to take part in a popular series of campus talks that invites teachers to present hypothetical "last lectures" to their students. But, what made this talk different was the total absence of hypothesis: Recently diagnosed with end-stage pancreatic cancer. Pausch was, indeed, addressing the student body for the last time. Zaslow attended the jam-packed lecture and wrote about it in his column, helping to fuel worldwide interest and an Internet phenomenon. Pausch and Zaslow collaborated on The Last Lecture, a book-length narrative that served not just as a compendium of life lessons, but as a moving testimony to Pausch's optimism and courage. The book was published in April of 2008 and became an international bestseller. Pausch died three months later.

After Pausch's death, Zaslow returned to a project he had spent many months pursuing: the biography of an extraordinary, enduring friendship among 11 women who had grown up together in the American Midwest. Revelatory, inspiring, and shot through with the optimism and emotional resonance that distinguishes all of Zaslow's writing, The Girls from Ames was published in April of 2009.

Good To Know

Some fun outtakes from our interview with Jeffrey Zaslow:
"I sold hot dogs for 4 years in college in the stands at Philadelphia Phillies games."

"When I was an advice columnist in Chicago, I hosted a singles party for charity every fall. We'd have 7,000 attendees a year, and 78 marriages resulted."

"I had never been to Ames, Iowa, before I began reporting The Girls From Ames."

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      West Bloomfield, MI
    1. Date of Birth:
    2. Place of Birth:
      Philadelphia, PA
    1. Education:
      B.A., Creative Writing, Carnegie Mellon University, 1980

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 139 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 139 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Touching Moment!

    This book truly exceeded my expectations. I was not sure what I was going to get out of reading this book. Jeffrey produced such a wonderful insight into these womens lives. This book made me laugh, cry, contemplate things I am doing in my life and appreciate the things that I already have in my life. I am also looking forward to things that are in the future for me and the Ames girls gave me hope. Thank you for a wonderful experience.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2009

    Close to my heart

    I saw this book reviewed in a magazine and new I needed to pick it I did at 5 pm and read it straight through until I was done. I could relate on so many levels, I am 47 and grew up in Grand Ledge, Michigan-small town farm town. I also have close friends from my youth, one living near me in California where I have live for 20 plus years. I know those people in that book, the ups, downs marriage-kids-divorce and death. I reccomend it to woman of any age but of course those close to middle age because it is so easy to relate. It made me want to send an e-mail,pick up the phone and call my friends. It also was great to share the stories with my daughter who is 18,at College and dealing with the same issues women deal with,other women and the men in their lives. I can't wait to pass it on to someone I love. I wish the women well and thank them for sharing their memories good and bad.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Courtesy of Mother Daughter Book

    The Girls from Ames follows the 40-year friendship of 11 women from Ames, Iowa. Though they are now living in places all over the country, these women have continued to nurture the friendship they built in their school days. They have been available to support each other during the high points of their lives as well as when they faced personal crises.

    While I was not always interested in the details of these women's lives-after all how many of us can say that what we liked in high school would be fascinating for others to read about-I was struck by the value their friendship has brought them in so many ways.

    The topics of friendship, family, personal response to tragedy and having a place to call home are prominent throughout The Girls from Ames. Stories are told about the girls and women as individuals, and to illustrate the role they each play as a member of the group.

    When I started reading the story, I worked hard to keep track of each woman and her circumstances, but I soon came to feel that each person's importance is more as a representation of the kind of person she is than as an individual in this specific group. Often, things they said or did reminded me of people I know in my own life.

    In the end I felt The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow provides a way for us to reflect on and talk about the value of long-time friendship in our lives. I believe it should prompt discussions within a mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 16 and up about their own relationships.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 19, 2011

    Recommend you buy the print version

    Loved the book, but definitely disliked the ebook version. Wish I'd had the print version. Could barely decipher all the photos included and had a lot of trouble toggling back to pages to see photos when necessary to check who was who during the story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2010

    Awesome look at relationships between women

    I've had the great blessing of getting away for a few days every year for the past 18 years with 7 of the best girl friends anyone can ask for. We just had our annual reunion a month ago at one of the girls beautiful new home on Green Turtle Cay. One of the other girls bought each one of us this book because it made her think of us. We started trying to figure out which one of us was which woman in the book (who are approximately our age by the way, but we didn't become friends until college). I'm still reading it, others have finished and commented and we all are enjoying. Thanks Stacey!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2010

    good bookgroup discussion

    this was a good book to provoke discussion at book group, mostly about our experiences and how they mirrored those of the girls from ames. with so many girls, it was hard to keep track of who was who, but i just kept reading. i was disappointed that there was no real resolution on what happened to sheila and found that sally forgiving the intervention a little unbelievable, but it's a true story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2010

    Absolutely loved it.

    I read about this book in a magazine. It was in their "summer reading" section, so I went and picked it up. I thought it was wonderful. (and it's non-fiction!) You get connected to the girls and their life stories. The pictures the author includes are great- you get to see what the girls really look like back then and today. I just think this is an important book for a girlfriend and her friends to read. The story of friendship that lasts throughout the years, sticking through it no matter what. It has some sad parts, but totally worth the tears to read it. I plan on buying copies for my closest girlfriends too. Great book. Definitely recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Easy to read but got nothing out of it.

    Read this for a book club and can think of many other ways I could have more productively spent my time. Glad the Girls from Ames have each other but didn't find much of value in the book other than "life can be hard; it is good to have friends." Not exactly an earthshattering concept. Lacked depth. If you are looking for an easy read and enjoy reading about others' quite normal lives, go for it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2009

    Sounded good but NO!!! What could have been a great novel about a group of women was a terribly written documentary that went beyond boring. It would have been good had one of the women written their story and left Jeffrey Zaslow to his own work.

    I could not get through the first half and returned the book to the store.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2013

    Heartwarming stories

    This was one of my favorite books I read this year. It is the true story of the lives of eleven women whose friendships have lasted over decades. When the book ended, I wanted to keep reading to continue to learn about these women. If you have one or several close friends, this book will help you appreciate their friendship even more.

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

    Posted June 19, 2012

    Riveting Story out of the Heartland

    I could hardly put this book down once I started to read it. Although the book was ostensibly written in a journalistic style, there were plenty of feelings that were evoked throughout the story. Even though I am a generation older than these girls, the wealth of detailed memories in this book often moved me and helped me understand what other people might be going through.

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  • Posted April 12, 2012

    It was OK

    The book was a bit disjoimted. Our book club couldn't decide if it was a diary or calendar. WAY too many people to keep track of. They didn't think of themselves as 'mean' girls, but there was 1 occasion. They lots of times had certain pairs that were closer. The reason for that is that they wanted to belong, but wouldn't admit they were not quite as close as they thought.
    It wsn't really well-written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2012

    A Good read

    Interesting documentary/biography about a group of girls who have been friends for life. Recommended!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2012

    An engrossing read, a true friendship account.

    I was surprised by the format, a chapter about each of the friends, not what I expected. But an engrossing read. Once I got into it, I found it hard to put down. The author does a good job of remaining objective as an observer, engaging my curiousi. Marilyn was my favorite charcter. I found myself wishing these girls had been my friends, yet it caused me to recall childhood friendships with great pleasure. For these women to have all remained close thru their whole lives is a wonderful thing. I am interested to see how our book club reviews it.

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  • Posted September 19, 2011

    Fascinating till the last page

    Fantastic book about those special relationships women share-a must read if you ever had a BBF and still treasure them today!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2011

    Awesome book

    This is a great book about lasting friendship between women. I have actually met a Karla and Karen. Jennifer Benson now Jennifer Litchman is actually my boss!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2011

    read. march 2011

    read march 2011

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 6, 2011

    Kritters Ramblings

    Do you keep in contact with those friends from childhood? Do you have girls that you call with all of the good and bad news before anyone else? Are there friendships worth fighting distance, time constraints and obstacles? YES!

    The Girls From Ames was a great book about 11 women who through many different ways came be a very close knit group of girls who have shared absolutely ALL the ups and downs that life can throw at anyone. Divorces, miscarriages and loves lost all bring them together even though they live in very different parts of the US. They have also been able to celebrate many good times from healthy children, job promotions and the men who make their lives complete.

    I absolutely loved this book. I cried. I laughed. I wanted to call all the girls that are currently in my life and those who have been in and out to thank them for their listening ears and the moments we have had. Whether you have kept in touch with childhood friends or not, this book is definitely one to go to pick up and fast.

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  • Posted June 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Left Me Laughing, Crying and a Little Bit Jealous

    The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women & a Forty~Year Friendship is an intimate look at the friendships of eleven women over a forty~year period. Interspersed with studies that highlight the importance of the development and maintenance of close relationships in the health and well~being of women, The Girls from Ames is part sociology study, part biography and part cultural reference book. The women came of age just at the tail end of the Baby Boom, so they are the immediate benefactors of the women's rights movement and other social changes that marked the 60s, 70s and 80s. It was fun to read about the different hairstyles and clothes the women wore and the music they listened to as their stories unfolded, these cultural references provided a musical and visual backdrop against which their stories could be shared by women from different walks of life.

    During a weekend reunion, the women shared the details of their relationships (some good, some bad) with author, Jeffrey Zaslow. They also invited him to look at scrapbooks, read emails, interview friends, quasi~enemies and family to find out what has kept the girls so closely knit when other relationships have unraveled. At points, it seemed that the ladies' relationships were ebbing but the women proved that they did not need constant contact to remain close, especially when email came about and they were able to simply hit "Reply All."

    The women have supported each other through elementary school, high school and beyond. They've offered shoulders to cry on when they've been given devastating news and they've given tough love when it was warranted. But more than anything else, they've been there for each other. Even when they didn't agree with the choices that the other was making, they let their feeling be known and then they offered support... That the women were able to love each other unconditionally, even when the other's choices conflicted with their religious or moral beliefs was one of the things that stood out most to me ~ unconditional, unfailing, all~encompassing love.

    In many ways, you can tell the author is a journalist; each vignette is punctuated by studies that point out the importance of life~long friendships to women and their health. At first, I found the analysis to be intrusive and more than a bit annoying, however, by the end of the book, I was impressed with how much these women supported the data presented. The overriding conclusion of all of the data presented in the book and supported by the women's lives indicates that women who have strong friendships live happier and healthier lives ~ and when diagnosed with an illness, their chances of survival are increased significantly.

    Part of the charm of this story is that each woman offers something to the reader with which they can identify, but more than that is the emotional tug~of~war of the story. At points, I found myself laughing and other times I found myself crying. In the end, I found myself a whole lot jealous. These women have the type of friendship that goes beyond the casual acquaintances that many of us share. They are soul sisters in every sense of the word. I believe the greatest lesson to be learned from this book is to treasure the people around you and never take anyone for granted.

    Disclosure: I received this book free from Penguin Group in exchange for a review. I am not required to write a positive review, just an honest one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2010

    This was an article not a book

    For all women who have a close circle of friends, Mr. Zaslow reinforces what we already know. He reminds us that we support each other most of the time and that our friendships are nurturing. His book left me flat though, providing little insight or true character development. I was frankly bored most of the time.

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