Sisterhood Everlasting, by Ann Brashares
Growing up is hard on a friendship. There’s no revelation in that. I remember my mom once told me that a good family is built for leaving, because that is what children must do. And I’ve wondered many times, is that also what a good friendship is supposed to be built for? Because ours isn’t. We have no idea how to cope with the leaving.
I’m honestly not sure I can give a fair appraisal of this one without tipping my cards and revealing my hand, and I’m sure I can’t do it without revealing Brashares’s plot points, so read on only if you can deal with those stipulations.
Tibby and Bee, Lena and Carmen have occupied a warm place in my heart since I read the first Pants book, strengthened, I must admit, by the golden-lit, adorably-dressed movies coming at the perfect time in my adolescence. What’s more, I find a lot of comfort and guidance in books about other twenty-somethings navigating the postgrad years, and Sisterhood Everlasting promised several hundred pages on the four girls at 29. So I approached Sisterhood Everlasting with some excitement.
It pretty much knocked me on my ass.
The Washington Post writes about these sort of epilogue books, “Reboots provide all of that information, but it comes at a price. Knowing what happens means saying good-bye to what could have happened, to all of the possibilities you had concocted for all of the girls you once loved. In this place of Not Knowing, the characters remain bright with potential, teenagers whose teenage problems are cozy retreats for adult readers. In the place of Knowing, they are just twenty-somethings with grown-up problems and cruddy temp jobs.”
I wish I had read this warning before I sat down in the armchair with Everlasting and found myself increasingly crumpled. I was hoping for light and summer (and ok, cute boys and cute outfits) and the book moved from gray listlessness to dashed hope to downright tragedy. I read on, and found myself in a correspondingly dark mood.
If you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about. The nightmarish unreality. The girls’ grieving. Their wanton self-destruction.
But I could handle that, mostly, and I felt like I’d earned it when the girls began rising from their own ashes, and when I began to hope for a different truth behind events than their shocked interpretation. The problem, mostly, came in for me with Tibby’s turn as Mysterious, Omniscient From-the-Grave Puppet Master.
Think of Dumbledore after his death, carefully sequencing revelations and instructions to lead Harry and his friends gently to his final sacrifice and triumph, and you’ve got once-mischievous Tibby, suddenly wise and humorless, an even more improbable deliverer. What is this trope? We want a God who grants all our wishes and guides our lives toward happiness, but we find it cozier, less demanding, to instead create narratives structured by the benign machinations of avuncular wizards and terminally ill fairy godmothers.
The ending? I wanted it — a perpetual springtime for the girls and their newly aligned families, living as neighbors once more — but I don’t think, in the end, Brashares earned it.