Title: The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship
Author: Lisa Verge Higgins
Release Date: January 26, 2011
Publisher: 5 Spot
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Rachel, Kate, Jo, and Sarah have been best friends since their college days. Rachel is the daredevil, while Kate is a stay-at-home mom with a good marriage whose life revolves around her kids. Jo is a driven career woman living the single life in New York City, while Sarah is a nurse with Doctors Without Borders and spends her days helping the less fortunate in remote countries. But then the unthinkable happens – Rachel dies. In the midst of their grieving, her three friends are each given a letter with instructions from Rachel. She challenges them each to do something out of their element, to push their own personal limits. While her instructions seem crazy, each of these women feels compelled to follow her instructions, and in the process, they will learn a lot about themselves.
The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship is all about taking risks. Risks can be a very good thing – they can change things up, keep life exciting, and help you understand what you are capable of. At the same time, though, risks can have unwanted consequences. Sarah, Jo, and Kate are all comfortable with their lives, until Rachel comes along and challenges each of them to do something unexpected, something fresh and new.
Higgins’ characters are well-drawn and three-dimensional. The author gives each character their own distinct voice and personality, such that I had no trouble telling them apart. I appreciated how they seemed like real people, and as a result, I was very emotionally invested in their journeys, wanting each of them to come to a place of happiness.
However, I did have a major problem with The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship, and that was with Rachel herself. It’s not a bad thing to ask your friends to take risks. I even admire Rachel for caring enough about her friends to want to change their lives while she was on her deathbed. However, I really had a problem with what she asked of Jo. Specifically, Jo was to adopt Rachel’s daughter and raise her as her own. Jo was a single woman living in New York City with a life, a job, and a lot going on in her life. I’m not saying things were perfect, or that her life wasn’t a bit empty, because it was. But thrusting your daughter on your best friend without any sort of discussion because you think it will help your friend? It doesn’t seem like she was really thinking about her daughter in this whole situation.
That being said, I felt much less strongly about this issue as the book progressed as Rachel’s motives become clearer. Additionally, I want to stress that this is not a criticism of the book. Indeed,the characters actually discuss Rachel’s presumption when it came to directing their lives after her death. It’s just an aspect of a character that I found distasteful and really wanted to discuss. As a result, I think this book would make a great book club discussion book. There is a lot to talk about within its pages – it’s a solid women’s fiction novel that I enjoyed, and I look forward to seeing what Lisa Verge Higgins does next.