I just reviewed her other book, “Maine,” but I had to do this one. I’m fresh from finishing “Commencement” by J. Courtney Sullivan. In fact, I was almost at the end on the way to work so I read it walking from Union Station to my office and then had to sit for 10 more minutes to get through the last few pages. It was that good. I could NOT put it down. In short, I loved this book.
It was very reminiscent of “Prep” and “I Am Charlotte Simmons” but I loved it no less for being similar. Those books — and this one — had the ability to envelop me in their pages. I felt like I was friends with Celia, Bree, April and Sally. I felt like I wanted to go spend four years having a blast at Smith College too — something, believe me, I never considered in real life (it’s an all girls school.) It made me miss my college days and ache for the young, naive person I once was — and wish I could relive those days with less fear and more boldness. Back then, I was so much more afraid of life but I should have done everything I wanted — like move to Australia for a year and backpack across Europe. (You’ll find most of my dreams have to do with foreign countries 🙂
Read my full review & tribute to my friends BELOW!
I was jealous of the friendships these characters formed because my freshman year of college was a miserable wreck. It was so depressed and down on myself completely that I didn’t make a single friend my freshman year. Instead, I spent my days in dorm room or driving home to parents, feeling too self conscious to hang out with the girls on my floor. Things did improve for me after that first year but there’s so much that could have better if I knew what I know now.
A few things I would do differently if I could re-live college (Indiana University!):
1. Get a roommate freshman year in the dorms.
2. Introduce myself to everyone immediately and not be afraid to ask to join in events, parties.
3. Take more history & political science classes
4. Continue taking Spanish and learn it
5. Study abroad somewhere for at least one semester
6. Join a travel or culture club to meet new people
7. Drop education as a second major and pick up English
8. Be more focused on my Journalism degree. Take more reporting classes, less PR. Take advantage of all the opportunities offered in the school.
9. Get a more defined role on the IDS staff, learn to write opinion better.
10. Not be so intimidated by guys. Date around and have fun without being so serious!
11. Expand my Friday night horizons beyond the bars.
12. Work less (I worked about 35 hours a week at Applebees!) and experience more of college life.
Back to the book. lesbianism and feminism are two major topics covered. It’s interesting because you’d think I would end up hating the feminism aspect of the book — but I didn’t. I thought Sullivan portrayed the varying dimensions of feminism within the girls minds well — from one end of the spectrum to the other. There were some really controversial subjects and she was able to present thoughtful, realistic perspectives from all the girls — considering their backgrounds, families, etc. As to the lesbian theme — something Smith is known for from what I hear — I actually thought it was well done how she present the relationship between Lara and Bree. It didn’t seem weird and the family drama involved was very realistic and you could literally FEEL how hard it must have been dripping through the pages. It made me feel for couples in that situation — and though it is controversial — I can’t help but want people who love each other to be able to do so freely and fairly.
The secondary story line — about one the girl’s post-college job with a fringe feminist (villain of the book, really), was compelling as well. Part of the reason I couldn’t put it down was because Sullivan did such an amazing job towards the end of pushing the reader forward — making us wonder what was going to happen. In books like this, I never want to get to the last page because I feel like I’ve bonded with the characters in such a short time. That’s probably why I always immediately look up the author’s websites and read interviews with them, find photos and video footage — somewhere inside the author’s mind are the people I came to love in her book! Thanks, Ms. Sullivan for a great read.
For the love of girlfriends:
Reading this also made me long for my girlfriends. Boy, do I love the girls in my life. Over the years, my friends have seen the best and the worst — especially the ones that spent time as my roommates! (Britney, Michelle, Lindsay — do you agree?) But I’ve learned so much from them and with them. I’ve learned about grace and empathy, mostly. I’ve learned what it means to listen and how what friendship love feels like. It’s different that romantic love or family love and I am so incredibly lucky to have experienced so much of it. There were several times in my life — middle school and freshman year of both college and high school specifically — when I had few friends. I felt lonely and angry and down on myself. I prayed that God would bring some friends into my life. He went above and beyond to answer that prayer. Today, I have at least 8 girlfriends I could call and any one of them would be there to help me if I needed anything. That’s not something everybody has, or something everybody wants. But I have it and I blessed beyond words for it.
To my girls — you know who you are — who have listened to me for hours, made me laugh and forget my problems, forgiven me for being a jerk, spent crazy days and nights with me, sent me cards and songs, loved me near and far, who taught me grace and non-judgment, accepted me for who I am, went out of their way to make me know I’m loved, who’ve never left me doubting that they are there, no matter when and where.
*I wanted to share a few photos. Unfortunately, high school and almost all of college were over before Facebook existed for me (when I began putting photos online) so I don’t have photos online before 2005-2006. There are a few people that I don’t have featured here but that doesn’t mean they aren’t loved. One of these days, I’m gonna scan some of my favorites from back in the day so I never lose them and can see them whenever I want!