Exploring Friendships Through Fiction

Read on to see how books can teach us the many forms friendship bonds can take

Fiction can be a valuable escape, but it can also be a way for readers to gain insights and new understandings into their own lives. “Books are a way to get to know the people you’re reading about and in turn learn more about yourself,” says Ridgewood’s Stacey Loscalzo, founder of the, a gathering place for story lovers. Here are some of her recommendations to explore friendships through fiction. 

These books and more can be found at Bookends in Ridgewood. Bookends hosts frequent author signings and has been a staple as the best local bookstore in the area. Visiting authors include James Patterson, Gloria Estefan, and broadcaster Stephen A. Smith.

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting

by Clare Pooley

Iona Iverson, a magazine advice columnist, takes the train every morning from Hampton Court to Waterloo station. She sits with the same commuters daily, never speaking with them but creating clever nicknames for them all. One day, Smart-But-Sexist-Manspreader chokes on a grape and Sanjay, a nurse, leaps into action bonding this group of people with little in common in very special and lasting ways. These strangers soon become a close community of friends. As the story moves forward, Iona suffers a personal setback, and it is her fellow commuters who step forward to help her through the challenge. 

“This is a powerful reminder that connections can be made anywhere. Next time you’re sitting across from a stranger, perhaps say hello. That stranger could be your next friend.”

Now is Not the Time to Panic

by Kevin Wilson

This is the story of two teenage loners whose worlds collide one summer in 1996 after the art they make changes their lives forever. When Frankie, a writer, and Zeke, an artist create a poster with a puzzling phrase that mysteriously appears all over town, it sparks rumors of Satanists and kidnappers, creating dangerous repercussions. Twenty years later after a journalist approaches Frankie, now a famous author, about that summer, she must make a decision about confronting her past, reconnecting with Zeke, and possibly upending her life. 

“There is an expression ‘Friends come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.’ How different could Frankie’s life have been if Zeke had stayed in it?”

Crossing to Safety

by Wallace Stegner

Crossing to Safety tells the story of two couples, the Morgans and the Langs, who meet during the Depression in Madison, WI where the husbands begin their academic careers at the local university. For over three decades they share a remarkable friendship despite their varying backgrounds and social status, from early marriage to retirement. Traveling from Madison to Vermont, the friendships in this quiet and reflective book are magnificently crafted. “Friendship is held together by neither law nor property nor blood, and there is no glue in it but mutual liking. It is therefore rare,” he writes.

“For a long time, I believed that ‘good books’ were those filled with action. Stegner’s writing is a reminder that some of the best stories are slow and contemplative.”

Tell the Wolves I’m Home

by Carol Rifka Brunt

In Brunt’s debut novel, it’s 1987 in New York City where 14-year-old June’s Uncle (Finn), a renowned and reclusive artist, both her confidant and best friend, dies of a ‘mysterious illness.’ Shortly after Finn’s death his partner Toby sends June a package with a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, along with a note asking to meet. She soon realizes she isn’t the only one who misses Finn and they form a deep connection over their mutual loss showing how compassion can help heal and make us whole again.

“As they grow closer, June realizes that the right friend can fill the void left by a family member, that with trust and openness, a found family can be formed.”

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