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When We Were Friends: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle) Paperback – March 22, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A chance meeting between former best friends Lainey Carson and Sydney Beaumont, who haven't seen each other since they left high school in Newport News, Va., 18 years earlier, leads to lies and deceptions aplenty in this less than satisfying psychological melodrama from Arnold (Pieces of My Sister's Life). Sydney, the proprietor of an occult shop, Six of Swords, where artist Lainey has interviewed to paint a mural, manages to persuade her childless old friend to hide her 12-month-old, Molly, to keep the baby safe from her abusive husband, whom Sydney plans to divorce. When Sydney and her hubby later announce on national TV that their baby has been kidnapped, Lainey must go on the run with Molly, to whom she grows increasingly attached. Unlikable main characters will make it tough for readers to root for this twisted tale's supposed heroes, Lainey and Alex, the solemn stranger who appears out of nowhere to try to save her from her fears. (Mar.)
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"You will not want to put this book down...Arnold pens a dramatic story about ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Her characters are our neighbors and friends, just trying to get through life the best way they know how. Readers who like words that paint a picture will enjoy this story, as the images leap from the pages."—Romantic Times, Top Pick!

“A truly compelling story that will force you to ask yourself, ‘What would I have done?’ . . . A great read for book clubs!”—Sandra Kring, author of The Book of Bright Ideas and How High the Moon

"When We Were Friends packs an emotional punch...Elizabeth Joy Arnold has written a story that ropes you in from the get-go and keeps you hanging on till the last page with a storyline so moving it is hard not to enjoy and embrace this book."—Coffee Time Romance

"The cast is fully developed with flawed characters...[an] exciting thriller that asks how far you will go for a friend."—Genre Go Round Reviews

"A fast-paced novel about trust and deception that will keep you entranced as it debates what lengths you should go to for a friend."--Chicklit Club

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Product Details

  • Series: Random House Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (March 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553592521
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553592528
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,468,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tracy F. on April 1, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Best friends Lainey and Sydney spent every hour together in elementary and middle school. In high school Sydney committed one cruel act, destroying their friendship in the process. Eighteen years later, Lainey, now a well-known local artist, finds herself face to face with Sydney. Sydney confesses her husband abuses both her and their daughter. She's working to get a divorce, but realizes that will put them in more danger. Lainey gets drawn into Sydney's mess and agrees to take the baby until Sydney's plan is set. Later that day, Lainey's agoraphobic mother catches Sydney on the news claiming someone stole her daughter. Lainey's trapped in an unbelievable situation where no one will come out unchanged.

Part mystery, part romance, Elizabeth Joy Arnold spins a story that is gripping, yet also drove me mad. I did feel compelled to read every page to find out what happened in the end. Yet, I also wondered how on earth someone like Lainey could be so naive. She's talented with a great friend and a mother who is as supportive as she can be given her psychological disorder. I know all about best friends turning on you, been there. In Lainey's shoes, I would have walked away and call social services. I certainly never would agree to take a child. For that reason, I had a hard time connecting with Lainey. At the same time, there wouldn't have been much of a book without Lainey's choice.

On the run, Lainey bumps into a kind man who offers to help her. She's told him her husband was abusing their daughter and keeps up the lie. Even when he agrees to take her agoraphobic mom into his home, the lie keeps building. The relationship that builds between Lainey, Alex, and the little girl is quite heartwarming at times.

After a while, I figured out part of the mystery.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By audrey TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you like your plots airtight and your heroines rational, this is probably not the book for you; if you are more liberal in your tastes, then there are fast-paced plotting and compelling characters to keep you reading. I finished the book and didn't resent the time, but more than occasionally I wished the author had taken the time to make it all just a bit more believable. I think there was potential here for something greater -- Lainey's narrative voice is compelling, and I would have liked for her to come to an epiphany about her own contribution to her past.

Lainey meets her childhood best friend and high school enemy when she's in her 30s and her painting career is warming up; she lives with her agoraphobic mother and is scarred by her past, including the death of her father and the onset of her mother's mental illness. Yikes, these are heavy burdens to bear, and Lainey wears them heavy. And now, when we first hear Lainey's voice, we get the sense she's finally dropping the baggage and finding peace, when up pops Sydney, who has a favor to ask .... As Lainey agrees to more and more preposterous manipulations by this friend/enemy, and as she falls more deeply in love with the baby, she consistently makes lame decisions, all the while brilliantly evading law enforcement and meeting "the one" ... oh, and caring for (if you can call double dosing meds and treating her like a rag doll 'caring for') her mentally ill mom ... and all while she is painting and planting flower gardens, and not really thinking about her situation for days and weeks at a time. The more I think about it, the more outrageous it is.

But I enjoyed it too. Arnold is THAT good. She had me hooked by page seven. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, and will look for others by this author.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Gail Rodgers VINE VOICE on February 23, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It seems so many books that I get to review lately have a main or supporting character with a major mental health issue that impacts the entire story and this book was no exception. Rather than resenting her mother's depression and agoraphobia, Lainey has put aside the possibility of a major art career to care for her mother. She makes her living painting murals for local businesses and in people's homes. Then an old school friend contacts her. They had been best friends since they first met until her friend betrays her in high school and she now hasn't talked to her for years. Within days she finds herself caring for her friend's baby to help hide it from it's supposedly abusive father only to see on the evening news that the mother is now claiming her daughter was kidnapped. Not knowing what to do, she flees town with the baby trying to keep it safe from the `bad' father and also now trying not to be caught.

It is obvious to the reader that her friend is taking advantage of her for no known reason. As she tries to find a place of safety she becomes drawn to the baby with feeling she had never experienced before. Then the handsome stranger walks into her life and offers her a retreat at his home. In no time at all they find themselves drawn into the life of the baby and convoluted machinations of the babies mother. Along the way she experiences love, betrayal, friendships and most of all the closeness and love that a child can bring into your life.

This was a somewhat different sort of love story of hope and healing. I will be interested in seeing what the author comes up with in her next book.
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