BOOKS

Boreal Book Club: Asking for a Friend by Kerry Clare

Welcome to STYLE Canada‘s Boreal Book Club: a monthly meeting narrated by Girl Well Read, for bookworms who’re looking to scour new pages. Since we aim to shine a spotlight on all things Canadian in life and style, beauty, and health and wellness, it goes without saying that every instalment of the Boreal Book Club will feature a Canadian author and their latest title. Be sure to use the hashtag #BorealBookClub to share with us on social!

@kerryreads via Instagram

The bottom of Jess’s world is falling out. Cocooned in her dorm in the winter of 1998, she’s reeling, and wants to be left alone. But a chance encounter with the older, otherworldly, elusive Clara has Jess awestruck. Clara, newly returned from a two-year trek drifting around the world, is taking a stab at normalcy for once, and the place she starts is university, where she struggles to fit in. Upon meeting Jess, though, Clara feels an instant connection, and everything seems brighter. Soon, the two are inseparable, undeniable necessities in each other’s lives. But when tragedy strikes, they are unceremoniously torn apart, sent tumbling down different paths. And with each passing day, their unbreakable bond is tested more and more.

As they endure love and heartbreak, marriage, anxiety and isolation, and the complicated existence of motherhood, Jess and Clara must learn how to love each other through it all—and whether growing up inevitably means growing apart.

Kerry Clare (Photo: Stuart Lawler)

Asking for a Friend is an ode to friendships and the importance of connection. Claire’s novel is both heartbreaking and uplifting—she perfectly captures how sustaining female relationships are.

Told in shifting perspectives and spanning two decades, this novel explores some weightier topics: abortion, pregnancy loss, women’s reproductive rights, the challenges of motherhood, and women’s roles. Jess and Clara have an unbreakable bond that sees them through the highs and lows of friendship, and their life choices yet through it all, they always find their way back to each another.

With its incredible depth, this book is the perfect choice for book clubs and to celebrate the women in your life.

KERRY CLARE is a blogger, the author of Waiting for a Star to Fall and Mitzi Bytes, editor of The M Word: Conversations About Motherhood, a National Magazine Award-nominated essayist, and editor 49thShelf.com, a Canadian books website.

Clare lives in Toronto with her husband and children.

Scroll to read Girl Well Read’s exclusive interview with Kerry Clare about Asking for a Friend. 

@kerryreads via Instagram

GWR: How did you start writing/become a writer?   
KC: I’ve loved books my whole life and have wanted to be a writer since Grade 3 when I wrote a poem about Remembrance Day that, if I may boast a bit, was kind of a big deal around the school assembly that year. What a wondrous thing it was to write *and to be read,* and I’ve been chasing that high ever since, and am fortunate to have moved through the school system with many teachers who nurtured my creativity. I “became a writer” officially when my first child was born in 2009 and I left my understimulating job with vague plans of becoming a freelance writer, and I’m so grateful that it actually worked out.
GWR: What was the inspiration for Asking for a Friend?
KC: The inspirations for the novel were the women friends who’ve been among the great loves of my life, and I wanted to honour those relationships and acknowledge how fundamental they’ve been to who I am today.
GWR: What do you have more fun with, character development or plot?
KC: Character is where it all starts for me, and discovering who Jess and Clara really were, and who they were in the process of becoming as the story progressed was such a fascinating process. I was also really interested in how a friendship is not a parallel journey, that characters weave in and out of each other’s life—that sometimes Jess and Clara need each other and other times their connection is just too much to be withstood. And the plot comes from that, these little earthquakes that can break worlds apart or bring them back together again.

@tandemcollectiveglobal via Instagram (Photo credit: @girlwellread)

GWR: Why did you decide to write the book third person perspective? Was it easier or more challenging to write it this way?
KC: Third person was the only way it ever was! I think a bit of distance from each character was necessary in order to show that this whole novel belongs to both of them, always, even though the chapters alternate between their different points of view.
GWR: I loved the nod to Summer Sisters—what significance does that book hold for you?
KC: I still have my original hardcover copy, and my mom and my sister have theirs too. It was very much a book we read together, a bonding experience, and when I reread it during the summer of 2022, I was thrilled that it still holds up. I’m quite excited that it’s having a moment with a rerelease and celebration as a “Read with Jenna” book selection! There is something so ephemeral and yet ETERNAL about summer, and stories of friendship in a summer setting, and while I didn’t set out to write a book that had such a structure, there turned out to be some real commonalities!
GWR: You’ve captured many facets and types of relationships—heartbreak, isolation, love, growing apart, marriage, motherhood, friendship—why were these connections important to write about? What do your female relationships mean to you? 
KC: I was really interested in the ways that experiences of motherhood and maternity—and just even having the capacity to get pregnant—can draw friends together and also drive them apart. We hear a lot about a divide between women who have children and those who don’t, but it’s even much more complicated and nuanced than that. And even among women who do become pregnant, there exist an infinite number of different choices, possibilities and outcomes for how things turn out. Some of it is about choices, so much of it isn’t, and it all results in inevitable tension that’s just ripe for exploring in fiction. I am grateful to have had long friendships that haven’t meant everything to me, and I’m also grateful to be twenty years past the tumult of our 20s, which were filled with so many changes and when every decision or choice felt impossibly weighted (and personal, even when those choices or decision were somebody else’s!). I’m happy to be older, more confident and wise enough to know that there are so many different ways to a build a life. It’s all just a little bit easier now.

@kerryreads via Instagram

GWR: What other authors write female friendships well?
KC: Well, Judy Blume, obviously! What’s wonderful about Summer Sisters is that we get her incredible insight about friendship (as demonstrated in books like Just as Long as We’re Together, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, Blubber, and others) but in a story that moves from girlhood to adulthood. I also love the way that Margaret Drabble writes about friendship in her 1987 novel The Radiant Way. And I LOVE Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell so very much. And absolutely beautiful (and sad!) memoir about friendship is Anita Lahey’s recent book, The Last Goldfish.
GWR: What do you hope readers take away from Asking for a Friend?
KC: I hope that every reader has a friend that the book puts them in mind of, and that they might be inspired to get in touch again if it’s been a while, and—even if it hasn’t been—maybe send that friend a copy!
GWR: If your book was a beverage, what would it be?
KC: It would be a warm cup of ginger tea served in a beloved mug. (Thank goodness for editors—I had so many notes in earlier drafts about sips of tea my characters took that would definitely have burned their tongues. In the final version, Jess and Clara take a bit more time to get their tea cool…)
GWR: Can you share what you are working on now?
KC: I was fortunate to get to answer your questions before way back when my previous novel came out in 2020, and I remember letting you know I was working on a project called Asking for a Friend, which seemed scary to actually type and put out into the world with no real certainty that it would ever see the light of day. AND HERE WE ARE! So I’ll cross my fingers, hope for the best, and let you know that I’ve been working on a novel that’s like if an Emily Henry book had a baby with a Katherine Heiny book, and its spinster aunt was Barbara Pym.

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