In his follow-up to the best-selling The Last Lecture, co-written with Randy Pausch, Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow explores the friendship of 11 girls, now women in their mid-40s, who grew up together in Ames, Iowa.

The Girls From Ames grew in response to a piece Zaslow wrote about the enduring bonds of women's friendships. He received an email from Jenny Benson Litchman that gave a few details on how the girls met (three were born within a week of each other in a local hospital), what growing up together had been like, and how they still keep in almost daily contact with each other.

Intrigued, Zaslow took a year's leave from work to spend time with the "girls," hoping, no doubt, to find the key to what has kept them so close for so many years. Instead, he discovered what many women could have told him: the friends of one's youth are often the friends who matter the most. They are the ones with whom a million secrets have been shared, fragile dreams have been explored and countless pranks have been pulled. These are the friends who know the best and the worst about each other and, as English poet Robert Southey wrote, they are completely persuaded of each other's worth.

Still, it is extraordinary how these women (10 now, since the early death of one) have maintained such close contact with each other despite lives that have taken them all across the country (none lives in Ames today). They've shared the joys of marriage and childbirth, the pain of divorce, the tragedy of the deaths of children, the fears surrounding breast cancer. They've cried oceans of tears together and laughed so hard they've wet their pants. Or as Cathy says in The Girls From Ames, when asked why their bond remains so strong: "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. When we're together, I try to remember that."

Rebecca Bain writes from Nashville.

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