Sarah Zacharias Davis’ new book The Friends We Keep: A Woman’s Quest For the Soul of Friendship (Waterbrook) is your local bookstore’s best kept secret. If you’re a woman and you have friends, then you need to read this book. Or if you’re a woman who wants to be a good friend, you need to read this book. Perhaps you’d rather “hang with the boys,” you still need to read this book. While Christian living books aimed at women can often derail with flowery metaphors and “tea party” talk, Davis does the very opposite—she emboldens women to pursue a lifetime of friendships. And, no, she doesn’t get sappy.
The Friends We Keep is a well-researched and exceptional approach to what is going on with woman and their tumultuous relationships. Davis starts out by introducing four female archetypes—the Nurturing Friend (think Meg from “Little Women”), the Evil Queen (jealousy rules as she strives to make others feel inadequate), the Olympian (constantly competing to be the best), and Marie Barone (named after the mother from “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Maries constantly undermine the innocent with passive aggression). After fleshing out these archetypes, Davis tackles one of the seedier aspects of womanhood—gossip.
For centuries, women shared information as a way to connect and create community, says Davis, but now, women also use it to gain power. She could easily shy away from her own involvement in gossip, jealous behavior, and other uncomfortable issues, yet Davis owns up to her own shortcomings, which allows the reader to be more honest about hers. At times, The Friends We Keep is painful to read due to its deep probing questions about motives, manipulation, jealousy, competition, and selfishness. If a reader allows it, this book can act as a catalyst for deep change in how she treats herself and others.
However, Davis doesn’t leave readers in their pain. She then offers a look at the various types of friendships a woman may have in her lifetime using personal accounts from her life and the lives of others to share about childhood friends, sister friends, best friends, soul friends, unlikely friends, and friend groups. Using biblical examples such as Jesus and Peter’s friendship as well as Naomi and Ruth’s, Davis clearly keeps her focus biblical without overwhelming the reader with “too much Bible,” so this book is a great read even for non-Christians. By no means does Davis water down her faith, instead she says that a deeper friendship with God leads to right relationships with others.
Her last chapter, which deals with the topic of friendship with self, is particularly interesting. Friendship with self is not narcissistic, explains Davis, but necessary for self-preservation and connectedness with God and self. She asks readers to examine their negative internal self-talk—messages such as “You are too fat. You are ugly. You aren’t good enough”—and ask if they would really want to be friends with someone like that. Why, then, should we find it acceptable to say these things to ourselves? To be friends with self is also to extend the same mercy, kindness, and grace we give to others to ourselves.
Simply put—women, you need to read this book. The Friends We Keep by Sarah Zacharias Davis will change the way you interact with your gal pals and allow you to truly find the soul of friendship.
Amy’s Rating:: 6 out of 5 (yes, it’s really that good!)