There’s a saying often espoused by teachers of creative writing: “Write what you know.” The main problem with Emily Gould’s debut novel, Friendship, is not that she writes about what she knows, but that anyone familiar with her background knows all of these things already.
Gould’s main characters, Bev and Amy, both in their early 30s, wish to become writers, though there isn’t one time either writes, unless you count a rushed email at the conclusion. In the beginning, Midwestern Bev rides the temp circuit, serving as a receptionist at “a commercial real estate company” and (sometimes) a French bank, but what she’s really “working on” are “short stories that are sort of…memoiristic.” Amy, an East Coaster and a thinly veiled stand-in for Gould, manages a two-person editorial team at the website Yidster, “the third-most-popular online destination for cultural coverage with a modern Jewish angle.”
Years earlier, Bev and Amy meet as assistants at a publishing house, and their office-related interactions spark a real bond. The friendship between them is, of course, at the center of the work, but Gould may have done better if she omitted the flashback vignettes showing its evolution. How Amy and Bev remained friends in the past—when Amy rose in blogger prominence and Bev moved to Wisconsin with a boyfriend she believed she’d marry—is of little consequence in the present; it distracts, rather, from the current conflict, which is how, with Bev pregnant from a one-night stand and Amy without a job and an apartment, they can stay close.