With Friends Like These

With Friends Like These

by Sally Koslow


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345506238
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/23/2011
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Sally Koslow is the author of With Friends Like These, The Late, Lamented Molly Marx and Little Pink Slips. Her essays have been published in More, O: The Oprah Magazine, and The New York Observer, among other publications. She was the editor in chief of both McCall’s and Lifetime, was an editor at Mademoiselle and Woman’s Day, and teaches creative writing at the Writing Institute of Sarah Lawrence College. The mother of two sons, she lives in New York City with her husband.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


"A fax hit my desk for an apartment that isn't officially listed yet—you must see it immediately." Horton's voice was broadcasting an urgency reserved for hurricane evacuation. But in 2007, anyone who'd ever beaten the real estate bushes would be suspiciousof a broker displaying even an atom of passivity. Shoppers of condos and co-ops in Manhattan and the leafier regions of Brooklyn knew they had to learn the art of the pounce: see, gulp, bid. Save the pros and cons for picking a couch.  

Several times a week Horton e-mailed me listings, but rarely did he call. This had to be big. "Where is it?" I asked while I finished my lukewarm coffee.  

"Central Park West." Horton identified a stone pile known by its name, the Eldorado, referring to a mythical kingdom where the tribal chief had the habit of dusting himself with gold, a commodity familiar to most of the apartment building's inhabitants—marqueeactors, eminent psychotherapists, and large numbers of frumps who were simply lucky. With twin towers topped by Flash Gordon finials, the edifice lorded it over a gray-blue reservoir, the park's largest body of water, and cast a gimlet eye toward Fifth Avenue.  

"I couldn't afford that building," I said. If Horton was trying to game me into spending more than our budget allowed, he'd fail. While the amount of money Jake and I had scraped together for a new home seemed huge to us—representing the sale of our one-bedroomin Park Slope, an inheritance from my mom, and the proceeds from seeing one of my books linger on the bestseller list—other brokers had none too politely terminated the conversation as soon as I quoted our allotted sum. What I liked about Horton was that hewas dogged, he was hungry, and he was the only real estate agent returning my calls.  

"That's the beauty part," he said, practically singing. "You, Quincy Blue, can afford this apartment." He named a figure.   We could, just. "What's the catch?" In my experience, deals that sounded too good to be true were—like the brownstone I'd seen last week that lacked not only architectural integrity but functional plumbing. 

  "It's a fixer-upper," Horton admitted. "Listen, I can go to the second name on my list."  

"I'll see you in twenty minutes," I said, hitting "save" on my manuscript. I was currently the ghostwriter for Maizie May, one of Hollywood's interchangeable blow-dried blondes with breasts larger than their brain. While she happened to be inconvenientlyincarcerated in Idaho rehab, allowed only one sound bite of conversation with me per week, my publisher's deadline, three months away, continued to growl. I hid my hair under a baseball cap and laced my sneakers. Had Jake seen me, he would have observed thatI looked very West Side; my husband was fond of pointing out our neighborhood's inverse relationship between apartment price and snappy dress. As I walked east I called him, but his cell phone was off. Jake's flight to Chicago must be late.  

Racing down Broadway, I allowed myself a discreet ripple of anticipation. Forget the Yankees. Real estate would always be New York City's truest spectator sport, and I was no longer content to cheer from the bleachers. Two years ago, my nesting hormoneshad kicked in and begun to fiercely multiply, with me along for the ride. We were eager to escape from our current sublet near Columbia University. I longed to be dithering over paint colors—Yellow Lotus or Pale Straw; flat, satin, or eggshell—and awash infabric swatches. I coveted an office that was bigger than a coffee table book and a dining table that could accommodate all ten settings of my wedding china. I wanted a real home. I'd know it when I saw it.  

Horton, green-eyed, cleft-chinned—handsome if you could overlook his devotion to argyle—stood inside the building's revolving door. "The listing broker isn't here yet," he said, "but you can get a sense of the lobby." A doorman tipped his capped headand motioned us toward armchairs upholstered in a tapestry of tasteful, earthy tones. Horton unfurled a floor plan.  

I'd become a quick study of such documents. "It's only a two-bedroom," I said, feeling the familiar disappointment that had doused the glow of previous apartment visits. Was the fantasy of three bedrooms asking too much for a pair of industrious adultsmore than twelve years past grad school? Jake was a lawyer. I had a master's in English literature. Yet after we'd been outbid nine times, Jake and I had accepted the fact that in this part of town, two bedrooms might be as good as it would get.  

"This isn't any two-bedroom," Horton insisted. "Look how grand the living room and dining room are." Big enough for a party where Jake and I could reciprocate every invitation we'd received since getting married five years ago. "See?" he said, pullingout a hasty sketch and pointing. "Put a wall up to divide the dining room, which has windows on both sides, and create an entrance here. Third bedroom." He was getting to how cheap the renovation would be when a tall wand of a woman tapped him on the shoulder.  

"Fran!" Horton said as warmly as if she were his favorite grandmother, which she was old enough to be. "You're looking well."  

The woman smiled and a feathering of wrinkles fanned her large blue eyes. The effect made me think that a face without this pattern was too dull. "Did you explain?" she said. Her voice was reedy, a piccolo that saw little use. She'd pulled her silver hairinto a chignon and was enveloped in winter white, from a cape covering a high turtleneck to slim trousers that managed to be spotless, although they nearly covered her toes.  

"We were getting to that, but first, please meet my client, Quincy Blue. Quincy, Frances Shelbourne of Shelbourne and Stone." 

  I knew the firm. Frances and her sister Rose had tied up all the best West Side listings. I shook Fran Shelbourne's hand, which felt not just creamy but delicately boned. She stared at my sneakers and jeans long enough for me to regret them, then turnedher back and padded so soundlessly that I checked to see if she might be wearing slippers. No, ballerina flats. Across the lobby, elaborately filigreed elevator doors opened. Fran turned toward Horton and me and with the briefest arch of one perfectly pluckedeyebrow implored us to hurry. When the doors shut, she spoke softly, although we were alone. "The owner's a dear friend," she said. "Eloise Walter, the anthropologist." She waited for me to respond. "From the Museum of Natural History?"  

I wondered if I was supposed to know the woman's body of work and bemoaned the deficiency of my Big Ten education.  

"Dr. Walter is in failing health," she continued, shaking her head. "This is why we won't schedule an open house."   Every Sunday from September through May, hopeful buyers, like well-trained infantry, traveled the open-house circuit. Jake and I had done our sweaty time, scurrying downtown, uptown, across, and down again, with as many as a dozen visits in a day. Soonenough, we began seeing the same hopeful buyers—the Filipino couple, the three-hundred-pound guy who had the face of a baby, a pair of six-foot-tall redheaded teenage twins who spoke a middle-European tongue. By my fifth Sunday, in minutes I could privatelyscoff at telltale evidence of dry rot. Silk curtains draped as cunningly as a sari could not distract me from a sunless air shaft a few feet away, nor could lights of megawatt intensity seduce me into forgetting that in most of these apartments I would instantlysuffer from seasonal affective disorder.  

"You'll be the first person to see this one," Horton added by way of a bonus. I could feel the checkbook in my bag coming alive like Mickey's broom in Fantasia.  

When we stepped out of the elevator on the fourteenth floor, Mrs. Shelbourne gently knocked on a metal door that would look at home in any financial institution. From the other side, a floor creaked. A nurse in thick-soled shoes answered and raised anindex finger to her lips, casting her eyes toward a shadowy room beyond. The scent of urine—human, feline, or both—crept into my nostrils, followed by a top note of mango air freshener. "Doctor's sleeping."   My eyes strained to scan a wide room where old-fashioned blinds were drawn against the noon sun. An elderly woman, her hair scant and tufted, was folded into a wheelchair like a rag doll, despite pillows bolstering her skeletal frame. Dr. Walter lookedbarely alive. Mrs. Shelbourne placed her hand on my arm. "We shouldn't stay long in this room. I'm sure you understand. Alzheimer's."  

"I do—too well," I said, rapidly beholding the high ceiling and dentil moldings, while memories of my mother, scrupulously archived yet too fresh to examine, begged for consideration. I pushed them away even as my mind catalogued herringbone floors withan intricate walnut border and the merest wink of a crystal chandelier. Mrs. Shelbourne grasped my arm and we hurried into a small, dark kitchen with wallpaper on which hummingbirds had enjoyed a sixty-year siesta. In front of the sink, which faced a coveredwindow, linoleum had worn bare. There were scratched metal cabinets and no dishwasher, and I suspected the stove's birth date preceded my own. I thought of my unfinished chapter, and cursed my wasted time.  

Halfheartedly I lifted a tattered shade. "Holy cow," I said, though only to myself. Sun reflected off the park's vast reservoir, which appeared so close I thought I could stand on the ledge and swan-dive into its depth. Far below, I could see treetops,lush as giant broccoli. The traffic was a distant buzz. I felt a tremor. The subway, stories below? No, my heart.   Picking up my pace, I followed the brokers through the spacious dining room and down a hall where I counted off six closets. I peeked into a bathroom tiled in a vintage mosaic of the sort decorators encourage clients to re-create at vast expense. We passedthrough a starlet-worthy dressing room and entered a bedroom into which I could easily tuck my current, rented apartment, with enough space to spare for a study. As Mrs. Shelbourne pulled the hardware on draperies bleached of color, I could swear that a strobehad begun to pulse. From the corner of my eye I saw a black cat slink away while Horton kicked a dust bunny under the bed, but I took little note of either. As I stood by the window, I was gooey with the feeling I'd experienced when I first laid eyes on theGrand Canyon.  

The silvery vista spread casually before me might be the most enchanted in the entire city. I closed my eyes, traveling through time. Women were skating figure eights in red velvet cloaks, their hands warmed by ermine muffs. Bells jingled in the evergreen-scentedair as horses waited patiently by sleighs. I blinked again and the maidens wore organdy, their porcelain skin dewy under the parasols shielding their intricate curls. I fast-forwarded to my girlhood and could imagine the large, glassy pond below was the crystalstream beside my grandparents' log-hewn cabin in Wisconsin's northern woods, the bone-chilling waters of Scout camp, perhaps Lake Como of my honeymoon scrapbook.  

Beside this champagne view, the fifty-four other apartments I'd considered seemed like cheap house wine, including the possibilities that cost far more—almost every one. I pulled myself away from the window and looked back. Walls were no longer hung withfaded diplomas, nor was the carpet worn thin. Mirroring the reservoir, the room had turned gray-blue. I saw myself writing at a desk by the window, lit by sunbeams, words spilling out so fast my fingers danced on the keyboard like Rockettes. This time my manuscriptwasn't a twenty-year-old singer-actress' whiny rant. It was a novel, lauded by the critics and Costco customers alike.  

I could see myself in this room. My face wore deep contentment. The bed was luxuriously rumpled, since a half hour earlier Jake and I had made love, and now he was brewing coffee in our brand-new kitchen, as sleekly designed as a sperm. Perhaps he'd alreadygone out to bike around the park or was walking our shelter-rescued puppy. Tallulah, the little rascal, loved to chase her ball down our twenty-foot hall. 

  In every way, I was home.   Then I snapped out of it. I was wearing my real estate heart on my sleeve, all but drooling. Quincy Blue, you dumb cluck. I sensed Horton looking at me as if he were a cannibal in need of protein, and checked to see if he and Fran had excused themselvesto decide whether they should triple the apartment's price or merely double it. We walked past another bathroom, this one housing a tub as long as a rowboat, ambled back through the dim hallway, and ended in the living room.  

"The view's even better from here—a pity we can't pull up the shades," Mrs. Shelbourne whispered as she walked toward the statue slumping in the wheelchair and greeted her. "Hello, Eloise dear." She took the woman's listless hand. "It's Frances. I wishyou could sit at that piano"—she pointed to a piece of shrouded furniture—"and play me Chopin."  

The woman emitted a dry rattle, craned her neck toward Mrs. Shelbourne, and smiled. She was missing several teeth.  

"If you wish," she said clearly. Suddenly Dr. Walter tried to raise herself in the wheelchair. "If you would be so kind as to assist me." The nurse lumbered to her side. On her aide's sturdy arm, Dr. Walter walked toward the piano, her posture better thanmy own. She settled on the cracked black leather stool and stretched her knobby fingers. I covered my mouth with my hands, afraid I might gasp. Her hands fondled the ivories and began to play an unmistakable Chopin mazurka. The Steinway was out of tune andthe pianist wore a faded housecoat, but Dr. Walter's rendition pleased her audience to the point that even Horton was wiping away tears. The concert continued for almost twenty minutes and then, as if someone had pulled a plug, the pianist's hands froze. Likea small child, she looked around the room, confused. I was afraid she, too, might cry.

   We clapped. "That was exquisite," Mrs. Shelbourne said hoarsely as the nurse helped her patient back to the wheelchair. "Simply exquisite." 

  Dr. Walter closed her eyes and in less than a minute was sleeping. Mrs. Shelbourne thanked the nurse and hurried Horton and me to the elevator. I waited for his chatter, but it was she who spoke. "Tell me your story. I can see from your face that you haveone." She looked at me as if she were the dean of women.

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With Friends Like These 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
curlytopJC More than 1 year ago
WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE defies categories like "chick lit" or "beach reading"--it's a witty and wise novel that not only makes you smile but makes you think, as you follow the odyssey of these women's friendships. Koslow prompts you to reconsider your own relationships, and make them better.
missysbooknook on LibraryThing 10 months ago
While I loved the premise of this book, the story got a little confusing for me along the way.....Talia, Chloe, Jules and Quincy all met when they shared an apartment together. They are the best of friends, until they part ways later in life....after marriages and children. Then their friendships are put to the test.I enjoyed how each chapter was narrated by each one of them. I did get them confused at times, and would have to look back. Eventually after I was 2/3 of the way through the book, I had them all straight. So much went on between them and to each of them, I was surprised and pleased at how the story ended. I love Sally Koslow's writing style and her characters. This was a good read...however....my favorite will always be The Late, Lamented Molly Marx.
lg4154 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I won this book on Goodreads and I liked it a lot. I liked the way the author has a chapter for each character, it adds to the character & gives them more of a personality. At certain points of the book, their friendships are tested and they manage to keep everything together, thru thick and thin and maintain their relationships. The author has a great sense of humor and in some points I was cracking up out loud. If you are a fan of chick-lit, this is the book for you, great for rainy days.
ARBELL on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I always feel guilty starting a book and not finishing it, like I owe it to the author. I started this book and there just wasn't that "grab a hold and take off point" where I couldn't put the book down. I wasn't connected to the characters for lack of descriptive writing concerning their personalities, they were all described without flair. That may be the point of view the author wanted to take on, concentrating on the problems they were facing but I really didn't care too much about their problems because I didn't feel any emotional connection to them. I probably wouldn't recommend this even for a beach read for the simple fact that even when I was reading this, in my home uninterrupted, I would get bored with it and find my mind wondering back to my day instead of staying in the moment. Like a few of the other reviewers, I would have to look back and recap the characters and their lives to remember who was the narrator of this chapter, I kept getting everyones lives and families and troubles confused. I have heard good reviews of her previous book and will have to TRY to read that one before I form an opinion of the author.
heike6 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Four women who are old friends, each chapter from a different one's point of view, interesting plot- what more can you ask for? You could probably ask for a lot, but I'd say this book has most of it. An enjoyable read.
CMash on LibraryThing 10 months ago
With Friends Like These by Sally Koslow (ARC)Published by Ballantine BooksISBN 978-0-345-50622-1At the request of Pump Up Your Book, a PB ARC was sent, at no cost to me, for my honest opinion. Synopsis (from book): A novel following four New York City women's complicated friendships across a span of twenty years. When Quincy, Jules, Talia and Chloe become fast friends despite their drastically different personalities. Now, nearly twenty years later, their lives have diverged as much as they possibly can within one city: Quincy is mourning a miscarriage and lusting for the perfect Manhattan apartment; Jules, a woman with an outsize personality, is facing forty alone; Talia, married and the mother of a four-year-old, is her family's reluctant breadwinner; and Chloe faces pressure from her hedge fund manager husband to be more ambitious. As these women grapple with the challenges of marriage, motherhood, careers, and real estate, they can't help but assess their positions in life in comparison to each other-leading them to envy and disillusionment. My Thoughts and Opinion: I thoroughly enjoyed this contemporary chick lit novel, maybe even more so, because of recent personal issues, namely empty nesting. Lately I have been thinking about the past 20+ years, reassessing, recalling memories, taking inventory of life's ups and downs and what I have learned from them in my own personal life. The same premise as this book. I could relate to many experiences that these 4 very diverse women with different personality traits encountered in their lives. I could also compare them to my friendships that I have been lucky to have, for many years, and how each of us has changed but still maintained that special friendship bond. Ms Koslow has written a very emotional, touching and thought provoking novel that has an outcome that will have the reader, at least it did for me, taking stock of our own lives and friendships. What makes friendships endure for years? Even when there are times where intentions aren't truly genuine and/or have even a little bit of envy. The plot is profound and meaningful, whereas the author, creates 4 characters that experience so many real life emotions, trials and tribulations and through her written words, allows the reader to palpate each and every sentiment. A poignant must read !!! My Rating: 4
mlschmidt on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Quick read, full of entanglements of the four women whose friendship started when they shared an apartment in New York, when they were all embarking on their lives. Thier friendship has continued into adulthood, through marriage, kids, and jobs. Sally Koslow captures the myraid of things that encompass most friendships involving women, all of the strings, webs of feelings of best friends. She also portrays the intricacies of marriage, in a somewhat real degree. This is a lighthearted, enjoyable read.
voracious on LibraryThing 10 months ago
"With Friends like These" is well-named story about four long-time girlfriends who end up in a constellation of conflicts over competing interests involving jobs, private preschool placements, and an apartment. As is typical of the 4-chicks-in-a-lit genre, the story proceeds in a semi-predictable fashion. I had trouble keeping track of the characters as the voices seemed similar, though the author took some measures to make them different. I agree withanother reviewer who said it was a little unbelievable that the girls would backstab eachother so blatently and then forgive eachother. I wouldn't think any of them would do such self-serving acts if they were truely friends. Despite this, I enjoyed this book and I think it would be a good beach read. Light and fluffy with a few catfights and group hugs thrown in for good measure.
ethel55 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
There is a slightly redemptive end to this novel, which is full of pain and confusion between four long time friends. It was sometimes difficult to keep track of which life I was reading about, as each chapter changed point of view. There wasn't a lot of new territory covered here, this novel of four women of a certain age in NYC didn't really do it for me. I really enjoyed and recommend Koslow's earlier book, The Late Lamented Molly Marx, as an innovative and good read.
julyso on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This is the story of four friends; Chloe, Quincy, Jules, and Talia. Their friendship began when they became roommates in Manhatten. Problems begin when one goes after a job that was intended for another, and when another gives a boyfriend some real estate scoop. We also get a little romance, children, motherhood, and moving. This story is about friends connecting, re-connecting, and trying to stay connected.I have to admit, it was a struggle for me to finish this book. I usually enjoy stories about women and their friendships, but this one didn't do it for me. I could never really keep the four women straight, so that was confusing. I also didn't really like a couple of the women...and the others I didn't come to love. Not a bad book about friendship, just not a great one.
roseysweetpea on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I loved this book because, while the four women it revolves around are very different, I can identify with every single one. I loved the interaction and the depth of feeling we get from them and their families. We've all experienced disappointment in a friends actions, and this book shows that quite vividly. Each woman has her own problems to deal with and all do so differently. I loved the diversity and the twists and turns that this book took me on. Even better than her last book.
dissed1 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
With Friends Like These, by Sally Koslow, is the story of four former roommates and their continuing friendship. Friendship? Who treats a friend like these women do? Jules and her boyfriend steal Quincy's dream apartment out from under feet, while Talia intercepts a headhunter's call meant for Chloe and follows up on the job for herself. As expected, discord ensues, though it's a very low profile unease. None of these women actually confronts another regarding their anger and hurt, upset just simmers below the story's surface. In fact, had these characters engaged a bit more proactively in their discord, Koslow's plot would have been far more interesting and engaging. Nothing ever seems to come of these traitorous acts. The women don't engage much for months, and then suddenly smile and silently forgive one another in the end. Realistic? Not in my world. I would never treat a friend the way these characters do, and I can't picture such a benign resolution. Exactly how did these women come to reconcile their feelings? Just because events conspire to work themselves out, doesn't necessarily mean hurt feelings between old friends disappear. I liked Sally Koslow's premise and plot, but the book seemed to be lacking the dimension and passion of how real people behave in the real world.
tanya2009 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I won this book on Librarything. It is released on 8/10. The book centers around four women who start out rooming together and continues their friendship through the years. The characters are great and I would recommend getting to know each one of them.
skrishna on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I was a big fan of Sally Koslow¿s previous novel The Late Lamented Molly Marx, so I was really excited when I learned she had a new book coming out. With Friends Like These is a close inspection of friendship between women, and all the good and bad that comes from it.I thought Koslow¿s depiction of female friendships was accurate, to a point. She certainly captures the cattiness and backhandedness that seems to inevitably come with women¿s friendships, as well as the power and damage that secrets can do to these relationships. However, I unfortunately didn¿t see a lot of the good side in With Friends Like These. Female friendships can be extremely rewarding, but only the negative seems to be displayed in this novel. It was unexpected, and unfortunately, didn¿t sit well with me.I did really like two of the characters in With Friends Like These, Talia and Quincy. Talia made mistakes and certainly was selfish, but I understood where she was coming from and why she was frustrated. Part of her problem was living in New York City ¿ living in that expensive environment would cause anyone to think about money non-stop. For some reason, even though she wasn¿t portrayed in the best light, I really felt bad for her. With Quincy, it was easy to understand why I sympathized with her. Her miscarriages were difficult enough, but on top of that, she had to deal with Jules¿ betrayal ¿ I¿m glad she made the decision she did towards the end of the book. It really suited her.With Friends Like These didn¿t really appeal to me like I¿d hoped. I didn¿t have a lot invested in the characters, and I think my expectations were too high, especially considering The Late Lamented Molly Marx was such a unique novel. I didn¿t know what this book was about when I first picked it up, but if I had, I may not have chosen to read it. If you are really interested in books about female friendships, this may work better for you than it did for me. While I didn¿t love With Friends Like These, I¿ll definitely be seeking out Sally Koslow¿s next novel.
efoltz on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Four strangers are roomates and becoming life long friends. Their journey into adulthood and motherhood takes their friendship on different paths. The women and their friendship were interesting and I stayed up late to finish it.
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The charavters were very real. The author was able to draw you into their lives. The story shows that, alhough freinds aren' perfect they are precious.
daisykav More than 1 year ago
I loved The Late Lamented Molly Marx. This book, however, was not for me. None of the characters were likeable. I understand the intent of showing the true nature of some friendships, but I'd have liked to have at least one character that I could root for.
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