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Authors: Susanna Sonnenberg

She Matters

BOOK: She Matters
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More Praise for She Matters

She Matters
is a dark and intriguing piece of writing. . . . Rewarding . . .rich . . . [Sonnenberg's] honesty has helped and will help me be more honest with myself within (and in regard to) friendships.”

—Mary Pols,
San Francisco Chronicle

“Susanna Sonnenberg's book reminds us how profoundly we're affected by our friendships. . . . You'll want to share this with, yes, a friend.”


“Sonnenberg is a beautiful writer. . . . In this gallery of friendships, the portrait of each woman is so well drawn we grasp its significance and savor the intimacy.”

—Sherryl Connelly,
New York Daily News

“[Sonnenberg's] vivid prose is confessional and precise. . . . Sonnenberg's intensity might be rough on friendships, but it makes for charged storytelling.”

—Jenny Shank,
The Dallas Morning News

“These are the stories of real women. Sonnenberg's hard-core honesty, sharp detail, and lovely prose make this a collection worth passing on to a friend.”

—Rochelle Olson,
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Susanna Sonnenberg's
She Matters
is a cause for celebration. . . .The book's honesty, eloquence, laugh-out-loud humor, finely wrought prose, and magnificent scope will keep readers eagerly turning the pages. . . . For readers who welcome a complex perspective beautifully rendered in writing, this book is not to be missed.”

—Kelly Blewett,

“It is one thing to talk about the value and importance of friendships between women and another thing entirely to offer up one's own friendships—the successes, the failures, the warmth, and the wrongdoing—by way of example and exploration. To do the latter requires guts, candor, and a willingness to expose one's own weaknesses and mistakes. Sonnenberg rises to the challenge beautifully and with remarkable grace in
She Matters

—Rebecca Joines Schinsky,
Book Riot

“Sonnenberg brings her considerable talent, unflinching eye, and electrifying prose to the topic of female friendship.”


“Rarely does someone write a book about friendship between women that women can relate to the way they can relate to Sonnenberg's
She Matters


“With heartrending precision, Sonnenberg offers an eloquent narrative that not only exposes but embraces the fraught nature of women's relationships with each other.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Sonnenberg's strikingly honest depictions of tumultuous female alliances and confessions about friendships are both moving and relatable; her depth of reflection and incandescent prose mark this exceptional memoir as a must-read to share among friends.”

Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“In her stunning second memoir, a collection of linked essays, Sonnenberg finds universal truths in her experiences of female friendship.”

—Meredith Maran,
(four-star review)

She Matters
is both a remembrance of vital friendships as well as a deeply absorbing portrait of the author herself. . . . There are beautiful moments documented here. . . . A deeply affecting ode to the ones who got away.”

—Mythili Rao,
The Daily Beast

She Matters
lingers with you, inviting you to construct a patchwork quilt of your own life and salute the many women who helped you along the way.”

—Susan Chira,
The New York Times Book Review

“Sonnenberg is a gifted literary stylist with a stunning ability to write sentences that read like beautiful traps. . . .
She Matters
artfully reveals the depth and gravity of love between women as they make sense of the changing and often treacherous emotional and logistical terrain of their forward-moving lives.”

—Emily Rapp,
The Boston Globe

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Chapter 1: She Matters

Part 1: Young.

Chapter 2: Women Are Like This

Chapter 3: Real Friends

Chapter 4: Facebook

Chapter 5: Proctor Duties

Chapter 6: The Root Cellar

Part 2: Aware.

Chapter 7: Roommate

Chapter 8: Homesick

Chapter 9: Annabelle Upstairs

Chapter 10: Blind Date

Chapter 11: Evidence

Chapter 12: Within Reach

Chapter 13: Kindling

Part 3: Awake.

Chapter 14: We Turn into Mothers

Chapter 15: Orphan Girl

Chapter 16: Naked

Chapter 17: Boundaries

Chapter 18: Ritual

Chapter 19: Real Estate

Chapter 20: The Four Seasons

Chapter 21: As We Both Know

Thank you

A Scribner Reading Group Guide

Topics and Questions for Discussion

A Conversation with the Author

Her Last Death

Famous Names

About Susanna Sonnenberg

for Saidee Brown


for Carole Van Wieck

She Matters

atricia will be late. As I think this, with a tolerant fondness, she texts that she'll be late. It doesn't bother me. I've known her eighteen years, and she confirms herself, the deeply known friend, which reminds me of love in its greatest warmths, its common comfort. I haven't seen her in months. After her father died a few years ago, she left Missoula with her family, took a job two hours away. Our e-mail is sporadic and bright, not more than that. We have our work, our teenagers, family health concerns, et cetera. None of these intersects anymore. She comes to town once in a while, stays with her mother, and sometimes, last minute, we squeeze in a lunch. Otherwise, our correspondence has lapsed into late-delivered major news.

My father has died in New York where I grew up, and I've been dazed for months, home in Missoula, yet not home. I hunger all the time and nothing answers me. Absence the new habit, I am shedding people, no longer sure how to show interest, how to let friends care; but I need care, and Patricia's has always been keen, persuasive. With her sweet intention she might make me visible again. Was she coming to town soon, I e-mailed. She was, and guess what! “We're moving back!” A flicker of gladness. We made a date, but her weekend changed. We had to postpone. That used to make me crazy.

Patricia pulls into the metered spot as I am passing it on the
sidewalk, and she waves hugely before shutting off the car, as if she can't wait to get out. The windshield frames her gathering-ups, the strap of her bag onto her shoulder, familiar motion. In a second, we'll reunite, and she'll shower me with enthusiastic greeting. I remember there's a song we do. I can't sing.

After I arrived in Montana, twenty-seven years old, Patricia became my guiding, buoyant older sister. She jollied me along, made things regular when I found them a regional confusion. When we met—her encouraging pursuit met my ready affections—we each had one dog and one cat, one husband (well, boyfriend for me). Both of us were earning a little money as freelance writers. Our birthdays were close together. She delighted in these coincidences as if they were delicious and rare overlaps. Later, when we were interested in having babies, we wondered how it would affect our writing. We asked, Where will we find the
not believing we had to worry. At one point I had a therapist I liked and recommended, and Patricia started to see her, too. Sometimes, our coats in our arms, we passed in the waiting room, which always amused us because we had steady plans with each other every few days. “Hey, sweetie,” she'd cry, her greeting big no matter the room. “I didn't know you were coming on Mondays now!” When she took a leave from her job at a magazine, she put me up for the interim position. Every morning, sitting in her chair, I logged her password into her office e-mail account for the day's business. We had a long period of doubleness.

Patricia embraces me, the musical surge of
hello how are you,
her raised voice exclaiming, “Just getting away from
the kids
!” Her mother's with them, she says. I try to match her and relate, which feels nice, nudges me closer, even though to me such family reliance is peculiar.

” I say. “Some time to ourselves.”

But I embody strain.

you?” she repeats.

“I'm so sick of it here,” I say. “I don't want to look at this town anymore.”

“Don't say that. I'm about to move back.”

“That's true, I'm glad.”

Inside the bar we debate tables. It's afternoon. I'd texted, “Shall we drink?” She wrote back, “Hell yeah,” which made me smile. She always had the balm, gave me a glad heart. Music overhead, a call to a crowd that doesn't mind it, we are drowned out. Close to my ear she says, “Where we can talk.” I nod. “God, it's good to

“It's good to see you.” I take her in, really. She looks older; I must look older.

We pick a corner table with a right-angled banquette. The waitress comes and Patricia treats her warmly and agrees to the suggested wine. The waitress goes away for the wine and my whiskey. At first Patricia's absence, as brutal as her unsold house unoccupied a few blocks from mine, beat at me. I'd sent a card to her new address. “Don't forget to write,” I wrote, meaning it both ways. Don't forget you're a writer. Don't forget me. Gradually, such disorder righted itself. This was life, people moved. It wasn't, after all, disaster. You coped with it, and, when I considered it, coping felt like a right step, maturity. We'd grown nimble with changes. Women handle the shifts, keep friendships afloat, in spite of all that other shit and demand, the being needed.

We start our protocol, the updates of our children first. It's been eight or ten years since her children have had an impact on me, although I remember how the corral of new motherhood contained our friendship, limited us. When our kids were babies, toddlers, then starting school, we'd shared kitchens and rooms and
cluttered activities. We knew the arsenic hour, as Patricia loved to call it—not yet dinnertime, the house filled with doom and shrieks—and nothing worked, no entertainment, no fruit, no limits. We'd phone each other. I know, I know, we said back and forth, the din at our backs.

We take turns—Does Daniel have a Facebook account, does Tasha? Has he friended you? Do you recognize her friends?—and I listen not for the information (I'll forget most of it by evening, the family's constant details enough, my tattered mind empty each night) but for what's at work in her heart and surfacing. We have different styles. Patricia starts with the reports, I start with mood. I pierce, hunt for the biggest truth, restless until I've divined it. People—new acquaintances, old friends—tell me I'm intense, sometimes too much. “Are you never simple?” a friend once asked, just wanting a hello. Patricia, light at the outset, asks questions twice, first for the information, propping that up like a painting against the wall. Then she steps back, asks again, mulls feeling. The eddy of her repetitions used to annoy me.
I just answered that,
I'd think.
Aren't you paying attention to me?
But deep knowledge has replaced irritation, wiped away the personal grievance: she is herself. She is like this. And I know myself—reflexively anxious that I won't be properly heard. In the security of true knowing, these traits can be set aside. She pours out details of her return, and I spark and lift. Sun creaks back over a mutual world.

BOOK: She Matters
11.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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