The summer is as good a time as any to add new friends to your life, and reading The Saving Graces is certain to add at least four: Emma, Rudy, Lee, and Isabel. By the time you've finished the novel, you will feel as though you not only know these four women, but you'll miss them the way you miss good friends.

Each of these four friends takes turns telling the story of the Graces a group of women who years ago began meeting periodically to discuss a women's topic. Chapter by chapter, each woman reveals details about herself through the choices she makes in what to reveal about the others, until you're gradually aware that you have become one of this group and are being told things the others don't know.

Rudy and Lee slowly reveal the unhappiness of their marriages one of them finally deciding to end the destructive relationship and the other discovering the real reason for her unhappiness. Emma, who thinks of men as speed bumps, is very open with the reader about her coveting a married man. While the other three eventually learn about her unfulfilled longings, she lets only the reader and one other friend know who he is and what a road block he has become. Isabel, the oldest of the Graces, seems to emanate grace and wisdom as she faces the hardest decisions. In the end, it is her wisdom and foresight that allow the Graces to continue after what could have caused the group to disband.

Men, hairstyles, an abandoned dog, and food not exactly women's topics, but as Emma puts it, We've already talked about everything under the sun. There's nothing left. As in a typical group of friends, someone disagrees. Lee thinks they've all become lazier and just find it easier to gossip than to organize a discussion topic. Thank goodness for disorganization! It is what allows us to learn the story of four unusual women who form a group we would all like to join. It is what allows us to think of each of them as a new friend and to miss each one the minute the last page of The Saving Graces is read.

Jamie Whitfield writes from her home in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

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