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

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

by Jeffrey Zaslow

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Overview

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

The instant New York Times bestseller, now in paperback: a moving tribute to female friendships, with the inspiring story of eleven girls and the ten women they became, from the coauthor of the million-copy bestseller The Last Lecture

As children, they formed a special bond, growing up in the small town of Ames, Iowa. As young women, they moved to eighth different states, yet they managed to maintain an extraordinary friendship that would carry them through college and careers, marriage and motherhood, dating and divorce, the death of a child, and the mysterious death of the eleventh member of their group. Capturing their remarkable story, The Girls from Ames is a testament to the enduring, deep bonds of women as they experience life's challenges, and the power of friendship to overcome even the most daunting odds.

The girls, now in their forties, have a lifetime of memories in common, some evocative of their generation and some that will resonate with any woman who has ever had a friend. The Girls from Ames demonstrates how close female relationships can shape every aspect of women's lives-their sense of themselves, their choice of men, their need for validation, their relationships with their mothers, their dreams for their daughters-and reveals how such friendships thrive, rewarding those who have committed to them. With both universal events and deeply personal moments, it's a book that every woman will relate to and be inspired by.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781592405329
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/06/2010
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 245,399
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jeffrey Zaslow is a Wall Street Journal columnist and, with Randy Pausch, coauthor of The Last Lecture, the #1 New York Times bestseller now translated into forty-one languages. Zaslow attended Dr. Pausch’s famous lecture and wrote the story that sparked worldwide interest in it. The Girls from Ames also grew out of one of Zaslow’s columns. He lives in suburban Detroit with his wife, Sherry, and daughters Jordan, Alex, and Eden.

Hometown:

West Bloomfield, MI

Date of Birth:

October 6, 1958

Date of Death:

February 10, 2012

Place of Birth:

Philadelphia, PA

Education:

B.A., Creative Writing, Carnegie Mellon University, 1980

Table of Contents

Introduction 11

A Guide to the Ames Girls 23

1 The Girls in the Photos 29

2 Marilyn 66

3 Karla 101

4 Sheila 128

5 Kelly 151

6 The Things They Remember 184

7 The Intervention 221

8 FBB and Other Secrets 245

9 Defining Love 255

10 "If Not for You" 267

11 The Bonds of Pop Culture 289

12 Their First Child 311

13 Tears in the Ladies' Room 345

14 Cooperation and Appreciation 368

15 News from Ames 404

16 Through Kelly's Eyes 422

17 Mysteries and Memories 457

18 North of Forty 481

19 The Game 497

20 The Women from Ames 509

Acknowledgments 531

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

From the coauthor of the million-copy bestseller The Last Lecture comes a moving tribute to female friendships, with the inspiring story of eleven girls and the ten women they became.

Meet the Ames Girls: eleven childhood friends who formed a special bond growing up in Ames, Iowa. As young women, they moved to eight different states, yet managed to maintain an enduring friendship that would carry them through college and careers, marriage and motherhood, dating and divorce, a child’s illness and the mysterious death of one member of their group. Capturing their remarkable story, The Girls from Ames is a testament to the deep bonds of women as they experience life’s joys and challenges — and the power of friendship to triumph over heartbreak and unexpected tragedy.

The girls, now in their forties, have a lifetime of memories in common, some evocative of their generation and some that will resonate with any woman who has ever had a friend. Photograph by photograph, recollection by recollection, occasionally with tears and often with great laughter, their sweeping and moving story is shared by Jeffrey Zaslow, Wall Street Journalcolumnist, as he attempts to define the matchless bonds of female friendship. It demonstrates how close female relationships can shape every aspect of women’s lives – their sense of themselves, their choice of men, their need for validation, their relationships with their mothers, their dreams for their daughters – and reveals how such friendships thrive, rewarding those who have committed to them.

The Girls from Ames is the story of a group of ordinary women who built an extraordinary friendship. With both universal insights and deeply personal moments, it is a book that every woman will relate to and be inspired by.

 


ABOUT JEFFREY ZASLOW

Jeffrey Zaslow is a Wall Street Journal columnist and, with Randy Pausch, coauthor of The Last Lecture, the #1 New York Times bestseller now translated into forty-one languages. Zaslow attended Dr. Pausch’s famous lecture and wrote the story that sparked worldwide interest in it. The Girls from Ames also grew out of one of Zaslow’s columns. He lives in suburban Detroit with his wife, Sherry, and daughters Jordan, Alex, and Eden.

 


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • At the end of his Introduction, author Jeffrey Zaslow repeats a question posed to him: “Could a man ever really understand women’s friendships?” How would you answer that question? Do you think Zaslow succeeded in his attempt to portray and explain the Ames girls’ long-lasting bonds?
  • Also in the Introduction, Zaslow explains the basis of the Wall Street Journal column that gave birth to this book, saying, “The column focused on why women, more than men, have great urges to hold tightly onto old friends.” Do you agree that women stay closer to friends than men do? Why or why not?
  • “E-mail has been a great gift to the Ames girls’ friendship, as it has to many other women’s friendships in recent years,” (page 76). Talk about how technology has changed friendships in the past decade or so. Are you in more regular or better touch with friends because of e-mail, texting, Facebook, Twitter, or IM? Have you formed new relationships—or, reignited dormant ones—as a result of social networking sites?
  • Did you identify with one or more of the Ames girls, either in adolescence or adulthood? If so, what did you have in common with them?
  • “Male friendships are often born on the athletic fields,” (page 54). What do you believe comprises male friendships? Do they form through activities like sports, or through something different? Do you know men who are part of a group much like the Ames girls’? If so, how does the male group differ from the female?
  • Which of the Ames women do you think strayed farthest from her Midwestern upbringing, or defied the expectations of someone raised in her hometown?
  • Cathy tries to explain the attachment between the women as one borne out of shared roots: “We root each other to the core of who we are, rather than what defines us as adults—by careers or spouses or kids. There’s a young girl in each of us who is still full of life,” (page 96). Do you think it’s common for people who were close childhood friends to maintain that bond in adulthood?
  • “Researchers worry about this current generation of girls. Studies suggest that the average girl today is likely to grow up to be a lifelong dieter, to have a distorted body image, and to be emotionally scarred by cliques,” (page 114). How has adolescence changed from when you were young to what a teenager experiences today? Do you share the concern that the new generation of girls faces a tougher time than young women of bygone eras? What societal or cultural factors might account for this shift?
  • In Chapter 10, Marilyn’s sister explains to her: “Men who’ve confided only in a spouse or a girlfriend can feel lost after a breakup or divorce, because they lose their only confidant. But for a woman with close female friends, the end of a romantic relationship is more bearable because they haven’t lost their entire support system,” (page 146). What do you think of this supposition? Can you think of examples in your own life that prove this statement to be true, or that dispute it?
  • Talk about the mysterious death of Sheila, and years later the cancer that claimed the life of Karla’s young daughter. How did the Ames girls come together in each case? What are the ways in which having such a tight-knit network of friends helps people through crises like these? A broader question: When friends supplant family, is that a good or bad thing?
  • Do you believe the closeness the girls experienced in childhood was in part a result of growing up in a small town like Ames, Iowa? Would they have been as tight a group of friends if they came of age in a big city, like New York or Chicago or Los Angeles? How much of a factor was Ames in the women’s relationships?
  • Do you have a collection of friends similar to the Ames girls? Who is in your circle? What does this group and its bonds mean to you?
  • Customer Reviews

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    The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 141 reviews.
    dclement04 More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Mother-Daughter-Book-Club More than 1 year ago
    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.
    pattik55 More than 1 year ago
    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.
    MSHills More than 1 year ago
    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!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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.
    MWiruth More than 1 year ago
    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.
    slsMO More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I could not get through the first half and returned the book to the store.
    GrandLedgeGal More than 1 year ago
    I saw this book reviewed in a magazine and new I needed to pick it up..so 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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I hate you !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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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    booksaregood More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Interesting documentary/biography about a group of girls who have been friends for life. Recommended!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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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