Where are the true stories of women’s friendships? I’m not talking about the shopping trips cum screaming fights of the “Real Housewives” or the world of frenemies. I want to read about the work and the time and the emotions that keep us tied to the women in our lives, and I want that story to be the focus. Too often in memoir women’s friendships are written about as an aside, or they’re tucked beneath the larger shadow of death or disease.
So it was with great pleasure, and maybe a small amount of trepidation, that I opened Mardi Jo Link’s “The Drummond Girls: A Story of Fierce Friendship Beyond Time and Change.” Could she, would she, do justice to a vital aspect of women’s lives that is so often belittled and sugarcoated in a pink candy shell?
She could, she would and she did.
Link was a waitress in 1993 when three of her fellow servers invited her to join them on a girls-only weekend trip to Drummond Island in northern Michigan. Link accepted nervously — making friends hadn’t always been her strong suit — and what began as a three-woman trip to a couple of rundown trailers on a campground evolved into an eight-woman commitment to a yearly expedition with ever-improving accommodations, unbreakable traditions, well-earned nicknames and a bond that has stayed strong for 18 years and running.
In her book, Link takes us through the trips year by year, and creates a flow that feels consistent but never boring. As in her previous memoir, “Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm,” Link writes with utter honesty.
She explores the rewards and the challenges of the group’s personalities and age ranges without betraying her Drummond Sisters, but she doesn’t leave readers feeling as though they’re being shown only the sunny side of the friendships.
There is a connection between the women that transcends the page: We want to know what happens when Bev meets a guy, or when Jill drifts away from the group; we care about these women nearly as much as they care for one another. These trips didn’t just “happen” every year: The Drummond Girls worked and planned and saved to ensure that their friendship stayed the course through divorce, childbirth, financial struggles and even death.
“Separately,” writes Link, “we were adult women with jobs and responsibilities; together, we were just girls, even in the darkest times. Sometimes … because of the darkest times.”
“The Drummond Girls” is a superb testament to our women friends — the people we may not live with, but definitely can’t live without.
Meganne Fabrega is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.