cover image Into the Tangle of Friendship: A Memoir of the Things That Matter

Into the Tangle of Friendship: A Memoir of the Things That Matter

Beth Kephart. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $23 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-618-09792-0

""Friendship is a benefaction and a weight. It is an instruction and a tool, a risk, a therapeutic, a happenstance, a philosophy,"" writes Kephart (author of A Slant of Sun: One Child's Courage, a National Book Award finalist) in her intimate and expansive meditation about friendship, a topic she explores not only for herself but also in the hope of finding wisdom and guidance that she can impart to her almost-teenage son. As she learns through her own experiences and observations as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, co-worker and friendDand through the reflections of other authors (including Willa Cather, Truman Capote, William Maxwell)Dfriendship is essential to our being, but never perfect: it's both fragile and safe, alternately yields succor and despair, and is at times heavy with responsibilities and expectations. There can be friendships between virtual strangers, as Kephart finds in meeting Bambi, who welcomes the author into her church and web of friends. There is also that deep friendship, reinforced with trust, that is ""the size of marriage."" And there are friendships that require reciprocity, as Kephart discovers with Andr e, who was among the first to believe in Kephart's writing and now, as Andr e's husband lies dying on the other side of the world, needs Kephart's empathy. Most importantly, Kephart recognizes, after reuniting with her former best friend, Joanne, and while watching her young son play with his closest comrade, ""you can't make old friends, can only lose them, [and] in losing them, you lose part of yourself."" Kephart's writing is luminous, filled with phrases so precise that they are worth committing to memory. Like Annie Dillard, Kephart is destined to attract a loyal and thoughtful following. Agent, Amy Rennert. First serial to Reader's Digest. 3-city author tour. (Sept. 14) [Originally intended to run in advance of publication, this review appears late due to a scheduling error.]