Necessary People by Anna Pitoniak
People who enjoy a quick, unexpected read, a bit in the style of Gone Girl.
In a nutshell:
Violet is a quiet woman who comes from a background of limited means. Stella is a very rich woman (think family money + Instagram influencer glam). They meet at college and become close friends. But that friendship seems reliant on each of them fulfilling their roles, and when one steps out, things get … rough.
“It wasn’t that my personality changed when I met Stella. It was that it became, it flourished, because I could say things to Stella that I wouldn’t have said to anone back home – knowing the would only respond with bafflement, or laughter – and she always volleyed right back, sharpening me like a whetstone to a knife.”
Why I chose it:
I wanted a book I couldn’t put down, and this pretty much fit the bill.
While we get some time learning about their dynamics at university at the start of the book, the focus is on the time in their 20s, where Violet gets a position as an intern at a cable news network, while Stella goes off to travel the world. Violet lives in an apartment that Stella’s family owns, paying minimal rent. She’s always conscious of how she needs to act to try to fit in with Stella’s family (as she is estranged from her own), and feels invisible but is mostly okay with it. However, as she works her way up the ranks at the network, she finds more confidence, and is less reliant on Stella for validation. Then, Stella decides maybe being on-camera is what she wants to do, and she has the connections to make it work. Things evolve from there, and I won’t spoil it, but I was both a bit surprised and intrigued.
I find that my friendships with women (as a woman) – especially ones formed at critical times in life, such as during college – can be extremely intense. I made a friend in graduate school who was basically my other half for a few years. We were nearly always a package deal, showing up to events together, going on adventures (she had a car in NYC!), travelling together. Things eventually cooled a bit as I moved away and she got married and had kids, but we are still close enough that we keep in touch around the really important things. But for awhile, she was basically the person I spoke to every day (that’s right, this was before texting was as prevalent as it is now), and who I relied on for advice. On the occasion that things between us were rough, it was harder than other arguments.
This book looks at one particular type of friendship between women – the kind where the power differential is extremely skewed. Friendships aren’t supposed to be about power, obviously, but I think it’s not too extreme to say that in some friendships, we fulfill certain roles. With some friends, I’m the optimist, always offering a look at the bright side. With others, I’m the one who tends to have a lot of knowledge about certain topics, so certain friends come to me. And in some friendships its the opposite – I find myself seeking out the wisdom and knowledge of others. In the case of Violet and Stella, however, their roles are specifically defined and seemingly unchangeable. And the question of the book is can — or should — their friendship survive when one of them is no longer willing to stay within that role.
Keep it / Recommend it / Donate it / Toss it: