al pals make all the difference Debbie Macomber's romances have always been strongly leavened with family relationships, so it's a natural evolution for her to broaden the circle to encompass four women friends, each facing life-altering choices, in Thursdays at Eight (hardcover).

Noted for her unfettered, down-to-earth storytelling, Macomber's new novel honors the expectations of readers with a story that will have you alternately thinking, "Yep, that could be me!" and reaching for the Kleenex as you share the bittersweet experiences of these friends.

Clare, Liz, Karen and Julia meet in a journal-writing class and bond so strongly that they find a way to keep their connection alive meeting for breakfast every Thursday. Their personal lives are radically different and their ages range from Gen X to midlife, yet together they share the joys and sorrows and surprises that come into women's lives when they least expect them.

Macomber is at the peak of her powers here as she zestfully "writes" each woman's journal entries and chronicles the journey they share in one year. She follows the trials and tribulations of Karen, the 20-something wannabe actress trying out for commercials while struggling with a demanding mother; Julia, the entrepreneur dealing with a midlife surprise; Liz, widowed and seasoned yet attracted to a younger man; and Clare, who faces the ultimate faithfulness decision. Macomber notes in an author's letter that she has her own friendship circle, and this book is a gift that will compel readers to find one for themselves. Sandy Huseby writes and reviews from her homes in Fargo, North Dakota and in northern Minnesota. She salutes her own circle of friends, the Prairie Writers Guild.

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