22. Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares
I took the plunge into Ann Brashares' Sisterhood Everlasting, which opens ten years after the last Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book ended. The reunion was bittersweet, but not for the reasons you might think.
Lena, Carmen, Bridget, and Tibby have become real people to me in all these years. They grew up in Bethesda, MD, not too far from where I grew up, and they experienced anger, loss, grief, heartbreak, lack of emotion, family, and friendship in much the same ways that I did and still do. Brashares has a gift for evoking emotions and peculiarities that not many people, or even writers, acknowledge. What comes to mind for me is how Lena often thinks of Ritz crackers while shaving her legs, but she's not sure why. While I don't make that particular association, I often have weird random thoughts like that, and Brashares reminds me repeatedly of my humanity in such small ways, and larger ways too. I understand Tibby's resistance to change, Carmen's need for ceremony and reassurance, Lena's self-betrayals, and Bridget's impetuous, kinetic grief.
That is why, while coupled with the joy of reading Brashares' fine-tuned renditions of these characters once more, I felt a little betrayed myself. The plot is one that has been done, to much more relevant and purposeful effect. While it serves to pull along the pace of the novel and the emotional range of the characters, it belies the nature of the original works, and furthermore, leads to an annoying message that mocks the very complexity of the characters Brashares has created.
I won't give away the main conceit, but I doubt few fans of the original works are happy with this one. Because I am so frustrated with the plot's construction, I was able to distance myself somewhat from my attachment to the characters, so the main reason fans will be unhappy is not the same as mine. I am more upset with Brashares as a personal idol, as her style of writing has always been what I aspired to. Her style remains poignant, but it is dulled by the trite implications of this novel, which I will reveal.
Every one of these brilliant, thoughtful girls, these searching, earnest young women, have come to be defined by their love, not for each other, but for a man and/or children. That is sad. That is contrary to the message of the original books. And it is contrary to the lives of young women today. I won't deny that romantic love is a valuable, if not essential, component to growing up and to adult life. However, it is not all. It is not a definition. It is not a way to live.
Dear Ann Brashares,
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants called. They want their pants back.
A disgruntled fan