FOUR FRIENDS - Robyn Carr
A Perfect 10
MIRA
ISBN-13: 978-0-451-41374-1
April 2014
Women's Fiction

Mill Valley, California - Present Day

Three women, acquaintances for many years, and one newcomer make up FOUR FRIENDS who are forced to deal with new challenges in their marriages.  This is the story of Gerri Gilbert, Andy Jamison, Sonja Johnson, and Barbara Jean Smith (known only as BJ throughout most of the book.)  Simultaneously, these women lose their happily orchestrated lives when everything they know falls apart.  As these FOUR FRIENDS are plunging off the proverbial cliff; their only safety net is each other.

Gerri Gilbert has a successful career as a CPS (Child Protective Services) supervisor.  Her husband, Phil, is a District Attorney in San Francisco.  They've been happily married over twenty-four-years and have three children: thirteen-year-old Matthew, sixteen-year-old Jessie, and nineteen-year-old Jed.  Phil and Gerri's romance and their marriage have always worked, or at least Gerri thought so.  But one chance remark reveals a secret her husband has kept for years.  A secret so powerful that Gerri cannot forgive or forget.

Andy Jamison is on her second marriage, which is quickly falling apart.  This morning she threw her younger husband, Bryce, and all his belongings, out of her house.  She's put up with his philandering for too long.  Andy worries that her fifteen-year-old son, Noel, will be upset at the loss of the father-figure Bryce tried to be, but Noel has known for a long time that Bryce was on his way out the door, and he's glad to see him go.

Sonja Johnson is a yoga instructor.  Her need for calm and balance in her life far exceeds everything else. Sonja is the one person who is always there for Gerri and Andy, making sure they are eating and exercising correctly, staying calm, and getting the most out of their lives.  For Sonja, there is nothing a nice cup of chamomile tea can't fix.  But when her husband refuses to live any longer in her Zen-like home, and moves out, Sonja is headed for disaster.

BJ, or Barbara Jean Smith, moved from Fresno to Mill Valley to work in her brother's business.  BJ keeps to herself.  While Gerri, Andy, and Sonja walk every morning around the neighborhood, BJ prefers to run.  Every morning the girls invite BJ to join them, but consistently every morning, BJ begs off with the excuse that she needs to run and not walk.

Gerri, Andy, and Sonja each experience a break up of their marriages within hours of each other.  As Gerri and Phil try to work things out, Andy is becoming friends with an older man, her handyman, Bob, who listens to her and lends a shoulder to cry on.  Meanwhile, Sonja has fallen apart.   She forgoes their morning walk and hides inside her house, not talking to Gerri and Andy, or teaching her yoga classes.  She literally drops out the scenes of her life.  Gerri and Andy assume she is just grieving, so they leave her alone until she is ready to talk.  Surprisingly, it takes BJ to walk inside Sonja's house and find her in a catatonic state.

BJ is the one woman who has secrets that need to be told before she can be free.  Gerri learns about her past, but she keeps this to herself until BJ is ready to share with everyone.  Gerri offers BJ the support she needs to stop running from her past as she has a habit of doing. Andy has never had good luck with men; she always dives into a relationship head first and too soon, only to have everything fall apart.  Her friend, Bob, lends the stability Andy needs to start again.  Sonja has spent years building a wall around her feelings where she feels protected.  Having found peace in yoga, Sonja thought her husband welcomed the calm, stress-free home she created.  Now, she has a long path toward the happiness that has eluded her.  And finally, there is Gerri, the strongest of the four women, having seen many of life's scenarios as a social worker and a counselor.  Gerri is the one person with the training to help herself, but is powerless to do so.  Somehow, she has to find a way to save her marriage; but first, she needs to decide if she wants to.

FOUR FRIENDS is an amazing book!  The emotion is palpable, and you will laugh and cry with these women as you follow their stories.  There are ups and downs, but the heart of the novel is the powerful bedrock of friendship that never wavers.  FOUR FRIENDS is a story of love and longing, struggles and triumphs, and lasting friendship.  Personally, I was overwhelmed at the sadness in the beginning of the novel, and I almost gave up.  I was upset when I realized that this book is far from the carefree story Ms. Carr usually pens.  That said, FOUR FRIENDS has an unexpected beginning, but I was compelled to move on, and soon I could not put the story down until I learned how it ended!  This story is phenomenal; Ms. Carr has a depth of insight and a writing skill that is rare.  Every person who chooses this novel should not miss one moment of a story; it is chock full of surprises and the passion of life. Once I saw these women fall into their troubles, I just had to read on just to see how these FOUR FRIENDS survived.  I was not disappointed.

FOUR FRIENDS is a surprising novel.  It is indeed a well-earned Perfect 10!

Diana Risso