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I Know Just What You Mean: The Power of Friendship in Women's Lives (New York) Paperback – May 2, 2001


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Product Details

  • Series: New York
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Reprint edition (May 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074320171X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743201711
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,162,754 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Sometimes timing is the difference between a friendship that lasts a lifetime and one that fades, but as everyone who has let a friendship lapse knows, it's also a matter of effort. A friendship is a lot like romance--in the beginning all chemistry and luck, but then come commitment and dependability and other words that don't scream "fun." And as any old friends know, it keeps getting better if you hold on through the bends and curves. After more than 25 years of friendship, Ellen Goodman and Patricia O'Brien share their own story, the stories of other women, and plenty of insight from psychologists and students of human nature in I Know Just What You Mean. The two recount their first acquaintance from separate perspectives and make it clear that neither felt a transcendent bond about to form. (No eyes meeting across a crowded room, no knowing nods exchanged: "Yes, I am a divorced mother and journalist, too. Let's talk.") And here they ask, "What is it, really, that friends do for each other?" Give advice? Listen and nod? Bring a covered dish? Sure, friends do these things, but above all, they know you in a way most people don't. Many readers will recognize Goodman's name from her syndicated column, O'Brien's from her novels and nonfiction. Aside from its merits as a piece of writing (Goodman and O'Brien live up to their mutually high standards), I Know Just What You Mean makes you think about your friends and friendships, past and present. And perhaps the best testament to what these two old friends have created is how much you want to pick up the phone and tell a friend about it. --Gwen Bloomsburg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In this warm, honest and engaging book, Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe columnist Goodman (Value Judgments) and novelist O'Brien (The Candidate's Wife) use their 27-year friendship as a starting point for reflecting on the importance of women's camraderie. Platonic friendship, they write, matters a great deal: "Women today--with lives often in transition--depend on friends more than ever." Starting with the moment they met (in their 30s), when they were both mid-career journalism fellows at Harvard, the authors take turns at the keyboard, telling their story. O'Brien, a Chicago-based mother of four, didn't graduate from college until she was 30; Goodman was a single mother and Radcliffe grad. The women remained crucial in each other's lives after returning to their respective careers and cities, and helped each other through career changes, parenting and remarriages. Beyond their own relationship, they examine those of other women: including Oprah Winfrey's friendship with Gayle King, Susan B. Anthony's with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the bonds between more ordinary folk (welfare mothers, college students, preschoolers). Along the way, Goodman and O'Brien discuss how women listen, talk, care for and empathize with their women friends--and how they compete with and betray one another (viz. Linda Tripp). The result is a skillful, unsentimental tribute to the strength of the authors' relationship. Heavy on insight and light on psychological jargon, this book is an intelligent, observant read--and sure to get a lot of attention in the coming months. Agent, Esther Newberg. 8-city tour.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I have been blessed by some wonderful friendships.
Kirsten Miles
I was also envious about the intense commitment and effort devoted to completing a book on this topic.
Patricia Lavins
This book legitimized the importance I also place on friendships.
Pat Weber

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By "2legit" on May 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm currently reading this book and I'm thoroughly enjoying it! Ms. Goodman and Ms. O'Brien know just what I mean when it comes to my friends. The writing style is making this book much more than a dry analysis on women's friendships like some of the things I've read in the past. So far, I can identify with EVERYTHING they and their participants in this book have gone through. Anyone who takes their female friendships as seriously as I do will love this book. What I really have enjoyed is the fact that I've laughed out loud many, many times over things that the authors have written about their own relationship that makes it so real and so sweet. I nod in agreement and think "been there, done that." Also, the individual analysis by each author on the same event is really enlightening. Sometimes friends incorrectly assume that the same shared event is seen the same way. Sometimes it doesn't even come close. Through these first-person accounts, I'm enjoying the process of getting to know Ellen and Pat as real-live people. They show themselves as very smart, sensitive women who really have committed a major part of their lives to each other through thick and thin. I doesn't get any better than that. Hey, I know from experience. True friendships are heaven sent and should never take it for granted.
I'm almost hating that this reading adventure will soon come to an end because it will be like saying good-bye to old friends.
I highly recommend this book to women everywhere who cherish their friends and for men who are wanting a better understanding what makes women's relationships such a powerful thing.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I concur with the previous laudatory reviews. These writers are right on the mark; I feel as if they have lived inside my friendships - the competition for men (one took my husband), the much appreciated support through the rough spots of life, and the fun of time spent with other women having a good time - sharing stories, feelings and being silly at 60! I plan to send copies of this book to my dearest friends. I know they will recognize what we have shared - some for 45 years. Thank you Ellen and Pat! See, I feel as if I am a first name basis having read your book!
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This books says what we all think and feel about friendship - through their eyes (the authors) and those of the friends they interview. It tackles the tough and serious aspects (i.e. competition) of friendship as well as what comes naturally to most of - support, understanding, trust. The format of the book weaves beautifully around the points the authors are making. Why read it? The last book I read that said anything important to me about friendship and women was the Ya Ya Sisterhoood. This book one ups - its about real people, read friends. All my friends will own this book with me.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a marvelous book about friendship, especially women's friendships. It's not just a mushy "aren't we wonderful" story, but a real live account of how it is to be and have close friends. The very ability to maintain such a longterm, intimate relationship with another person is not something that everyone can achieve. If you can, it's such a gift. I have such a friend and she's getting my copy next time I see her. I know she'll love it, too.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Kirsten Miles on July 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have been blessed by some wonderful friendships. I have muddled through conflicts in others. I have always thought that friendship was a powerful relationship that gained far too little attention. In this book I found women who describe feelings and needs and situations I have been trying to express for years.
We sacrifice friends too easily, not giving ourself permission to care deeply enough. In the chronicling of their own path and those of others Ellen and Pat have given all women a priceless gift. The possibilities of a deep and meaningful friendship unfold, and the pitfalls that can hamper growth are discussed in words that welcome and are easy to read.
If this book is widely enough shared, perhaps our daughters will be able to develop friendships earlier and avoid the destructive nature of middle-school cliques, or falling into the arms of the wrong man to satisfy their need for a friend.
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35 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book for the first 40 pages...at which point it became disappointingly repetitive. I continued to plow through the book, hoping for some less obvious observations and insights, but they never really came. If you have a best friend (especially one you've had for a long time), most of what you read in this book will be obvious to you, and not very new or thought-provoking. That's unfortunate, because I usually enjoy the finely-honed insights of both of these authors. There are two tests of friendship that I wish the authors had addressed in more depth: What do you do when your best friend marries a man you can't stand? And what do you do when your best friend's parenting approach and values turn out to be completely different from yours? In the end, I'm not sure who the real audience is for this book - it's not women who've maintained long-term friendships, and it's not really women who haven't, and if the authors' assessment of men's relationships is correct, it's not really men, either.
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