Monday, December 21, 2009

Review: Friends Like These by Danny Wallace

What a delightful premise for a memoir! Danny Wallace is twenty-nine. He's not ambivalent about turning thirty at all. He really doesn't want to turn thirty. Somehow, in his head, turning thirty will mean he's a grown-up with display pillows. Somehow he'll morph from fun guy to a stick in the mud. But of course, we can't slow the march of time. Wallace frets quite a bit (but thankfully entertainingly) about growing up. So when his mother sends him a large box of his childhood things, he sorts through the memories, remembering the people with whom he's long lost touch. He pulls his old address book out of the box, recalling that only the most important of his childhood friends made it into the book; flipping through there are only 12 addresses--well 13 if you count the fan club World of Michael Jackson. And so he hatches a plan to find the special twelve, meet them face to face again, and see if he can't rekindle these relationships that were once the entirety of his world. Of course, he has to get his wife on board with this plan first. But she agrees that he can indeed delve into his past if he also spends time working on their new house and doing all the projects that need to be accomplished when you move. So Danny Wallace is off on the hunt (and in DIY hell).

This is a laugh-filled, sweet, and thoughtful examination about what it means to be an adult, the constancy of friendships, how we change, and bits of the past that made us who we are. I love that Wallace doesn't take the easy way out when looking for old friends. He eschews Facebook but he does Google people. Some of his most success in finding people comes through his mother and the connections to their past that she's maintained. And he travels all around the world to meet with the people who meant so much to his childhood self. With a goal of finding the special twelve before his thirtieth birthday, he also ruminates on growing up and growing older, discovering that if you like yourself and have wonderful people in your life, it's not nearly as bad as it once seemed. In fact, with his newly rediscovered friends back in his life, Wallace seems quite content to become that settled and happy adult he once scorned.

I thoroughly enjoyed this narrative non-fiction. It was by turns hilariously funny (and I'm glad for Wallace's sake that not all of his friends are in IT as so many people told him they would be) and introspective. The pages whipped by as I read through this eccentric quest. And it made me want to look up names I only half remember from my own childhood (although I'm content to do it through Facebook). I will say that Wallace really lucked out by having such incredibly interesting friends in his past but I suspect that we all have old, half-forgotten friends from our pasts who have turned out to be far more interesting than we ever suspected (or cared about when we swung from tire swings with them). Particularly pertinent at this time of year when we are all looking to "update our address books" to send out Christmas cards, this is a wonderful and entertaining read.


  1. I saw this, but wasn't sure if it would be funny or silly. I think I'll check it out.

  2. That sounds kind of cute! Its not my typical but I have some friends that would probably love it. =)

    Happy Holidays!

  3. I read this awhile ago and enjoyed it as well! Did you know that he is also the author of "Yes, Man", which was the basis for the movie of the same name starring Jim Carrey???? I want to check that book out!

  4. *LOL* I had a tough time with turning 30. It just seemed so dauntingly ADULT -- although since I already had a husband, a mortgage and a child by that time, it shouldn't have been such a shock. :-)

  5. I have to agree, I loved this book! It was so great, and I flew right through it. I do recommend it to people, most turn off it when they find out it isn't fiction. I'm still trying to convince some that it isn't like those non-fiction books you're forced to read in school, non-fiction can be entertaining!


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