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The Girls from Ames

How 11 women have sustained a 40-year friendship – and how that bond nurtures them.

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Jeffrey Zaslow knew he had stumbled on a hot topic when he wrote a column about women’s friendships for The Wall Street Journal. Almost immediately, hundreds of e-mails began pouring in from women eager to share stories about their own longtime friends.

One respondent, Jenny Litchman, described the extraordinary 40-year bond she has shared with 10 girls since they were children in Ames, Iowa. So intriguing was her three-paragraph message that Zaslow eventually took a year’s leave of absence to chronicle their story.

His book, The Girls From Ames, stands as a moving testament to the power and importance of female relationships. Now in their mid-40s, these women exemplify universal truths about friendship, portrayed in the context of a Midwestern coming-of-age story set in simpler times.

Bravely, the friends allowed Zaslow to join them for a four-day reunion in North Carolina. They shared old photos and scrapbooks. They gave him access to letters, diaries, and notes they passed in class. They also let him listen to their conversations. This treasure trove enabled him to follow the trajectory of their lives, individually and collectively, from childhood to adulthood.

Their connections began early. Karla and Jenny met as 4-year-olds at Barbara Jean’s Academy of Dance. Cathy, Sally, and Sheila attended kindergarten together. Most of the rest joined the group in junior high, swelling their ranks to 11.

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