I really wanted to love this book. It’s about a group of women who grew up together in a small Midwestern city in the 1960s and 1970s, and the ways in which their friendship has endured and changed through the years. In other words, it’s about me — well, not me but my generation, the women who surrounded me throughout my own coming-of-age in a small Midwestern city.
Here’s the thing, though: What I said about it not being about me? That’s all too true. The girls from Ames are a group of 11 girls/women who were pretty popular, pretty wild, and pretty clannish about letting outsiders into the golden circle. They even turn on their own occasionally, as when a subset of the girls gets together one night in high school to carefully enumerate to one of the others all the ways in which she is simply not smart enough, pretty enough, or cool enough to be part of their group without making some drastic changes. It read like a scene out of a horror novel to me, which made it all the more dumbfounding to learn that the girl who was the center of all that vitriol is still part of the group! Nothing about staying friends with people who treated you so cruelly makes sense to me.
I enjoyed the nostalgia of the pop-culture touchstones sprinkled throughout The Girls from Ames. But to be honest, I kind of hated the girls from Ames themselves. And after reading about what they were like in high school and beyond, I’m pretty sure they would have hated me, too.