Book Review: Big Friendship

Co-written by best friends Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, Big Friendship is a memoir of the authors’ friendship. Using their friendship as a model, Sow and Friedman explore why friendship is so important, how and why certain people become friends, why those friendships sometimes end, and the (oftentimes invisible and unspoken) work required to maintain close friendships. Ever since I moved over 1,000 miles up the coast, I’ve wondered how to make new friends in a new city – but I’ve spent considerably less time thinking about how to maintain those friendships. Big Friendship seemed like something I needed to read.

The book: Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
Genre: Nonfiction, memoir
Rating: 3 stars out of 5

The first couple chapters of Big Friendship left me feeling skeptical, because the authors didn’t seem relatable at first – and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to connect with the authors’ advice if I couldn’t connect with them. Sow and Friedman clearly value ambition and success, and they spend a lot of time in the early chapters talking about their professional achievements. This made me worry that the book was aimed for a more professionally ambitious audience, with an emphasis on #girlbosses and #squadgoals. While there certainly was some of that, and while the authors seem to care about climbing the professional ladder in a way that I probably never will, I still got a lot out of Big Friendship (including the chapter that focused on female camaraderie in the workplace).

One of my favorite things about Big Friendship was its emphasis on the importance of respectful but honest communication between friends. Sow and Friedman point out that many women have been socialized to avoid “drama” at all costs, but that there’s an important distinction between avoiding “drama” and sweeping issues under the rug in a way that may ultimately be harmful to a relationship. They also talk about how jealousy can turn ugly, but how jealousy can also be used as an opportunity for good communication. For example, if I’m feeling jealous that my work friend got an incredible promotion that I wanted, instead of being salty that I didn’t get the promotion, I should reach out to that friend for advice!

While I gained some great insights from Big Friendship, I think the book would have been even stronger if it hadn’t used Sow and Friedman’s friendship as the model for all their ideas about friendship. I’m inspired by the co-authors’ ability to maintain a deep and rewarding long-distance friendship, but at the same time, they are just two people, and not every friendship is going to look like theirs. In fact, many friendships cannot look like Sow and Friedman’s, because most people probably don’t have the resources to resolve rough patches in a friendship by going on a luxurious spa weekend, or paying for expensive couple’s counseling (two things that the co-authors talk about in the book).

While Big Friendship certainly isn’t perfect, I still enjoyed it. The book is highly readable, and surprisingly not too heavy despite its focus on maintaining deep, interpersonal relationships. And even though I found many of the authors’ anecdotes unrelatable, I still gained valuable insights from their book.

Author: Hannah Celeste

Hi! I'm Hannah, a book-blogger from the Northeastern United States. I enjoy reading many genres, cooking and baking, doing yoga, and spending time with my two cats.

17 thoughts on “Book Review: Big Friendship”

    1. Oof yeah, I’m not a Rachel Hollis fan either. I really like the article you included here! The long-distance friendships that have worked for me are ones where we’ve put in effort and adapted to new circumstances, but I’ve never thoughtfully/intentionally done this – it’s just happened or not. It helps to think about friendship in the terms they describe.

      And thank you Melanie! Another video date sounds good – I’ll email you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The concept of this sounds so interesting! It’s a shame they didn’t pull back and look at the issue from a wider perspective at some moments; maybe that would have made it more applicable to readers rather than so personal to them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was really interesting and the authors definitely have a lot of great insights!! I’d still recommend it if you are interested – just knowing that some of the authors’ anecdotes about birthday retreats and spa vacations might not be the most relatable haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think using your own experiences may make the advice more credible instead of just talking theory? But if you can’t identify with the two authors or their lifestyle, obviously it doesn’t work. When I moved to a new country, I worried about keeping my “old” friends, but it hasn’t been a problem and even if I’ve made new friends, it’s nice still to have people in my life, who have known me for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re right – it makes sense for them to use their friendship (and they really clearly ARE great friends) as a model, because they’re the experts on their own friendship.

      That’s wonderful that you’ve been able to keep your friendships over long distance! I’ve maintained some friendships and not others, because I was unconsciously putting more effort into some than others, so now a few have faded. Thinking about friendships as a commitment is really helpful for me going forward.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review! I was curious about this one since I saw it was a BOTM choice, but since I wasn’t familiar with the authors I wasn’t sure a memoir-ish book from them would be the right fit for me. Going by your comments about their particular friendship being held up as the model here, I think I will give this one a pass, although I do like the idea of it in general. I remember hearing once that friendship is a commitment, and that changed the way I approached things- it does seem important to remember that we need to put in what we expect to get out of most relationships, and that one piece of advice has served me well over the years. I’m glad you found this an enjoyable read at least, even if not more broadly informative!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wasn’t familiar with the authors going into this either, but the more I learn about them it sounds like they have a huge fan following from of their podcast. I wonder if being familiar with them in advance would improve the reading experience?

      And I really like the idea of friendship as an intentional commitment. My friendships that have stuck over years/distance are ones where I was putting in more effort, but I never explicitly thought about it that way until reading this book (and the comments on this review)! It’s definitely a helpful framework.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t come across many reviews for this book yet, but I’d definitely be curious to see whether readers who are already fans of the authors have a better time with the book. I’m terrible at keeping up with podcasts but I think I would want to give them a listen before picking up a book like this; but I also know that I tend to struggle with personal stories from authors I don’t really know, which isn’t true of all readers.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t listened to their podcast – I just thought the concept of the book was interesting!! It comes through in the book that they’re really best friends too, but it sounds like I’ll have to check out the podcast also 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The topic of friendship, especially female friendship, doesn’t get enough exploration in my (never humble) opinion, so I’m glad to see this title out there — even if, as it sounds, the authors are using their one, unique friendship as a template for others. That does seem rather dubious, for all the reasons you mention.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha I laughed out loud at your “(never humble) opinion!” I agree that the topic seems under-explored, and that society tends to undervalue non-romantic relationships. Before reading this book, I never thoughtfully considered how much effort I was putting into friendships – now it seems obvious that the friendships that have lasted are the ones where I was putting in more effort!


  5. Oooh I’ve listened to a couple of episodes of their podcast before, and their conversation flowed so well that I’m not surprised at how close they are! Reading your opening paragraph also made me realize that I don’t really put in active effort to maintain my friendships—probably because I also didn’t grow up with the idea that good friendships, just like strong romantic relationships, take work. Friendships are hardly talked about despite how vital they are to our wellbeing.

    I might not take their very pricey suggestions to maintain friendships but I do love the bit about the promotion—something I’ll keep in mind for the future! Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Gil! It’s been such a revelation to realize that friendships take as much commitment and work as romantic relationships (and are just as important if not more)! I think most people DO put effort into friendships, but we don’t realize that we’re doing it. There have been friendships that I didn’t put effort into maintaining, and those are the ones that sort of “faded” over time.

      And yay! I’m glad you liked the tip about the promotion! Also – I haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but based on a couple of the comments I got here it sounds really good ^__^

      Liked by 1 person

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