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Eight books about friendship and family to lose yourself in this Valentine's Day

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As an antidote to the mass-produced love fest of Valentine’s day here are our top choices of fiction that celebrate a different kind of love – that of family and friendships. Sometimes more enduring than the romantic kind these the relationships that test, challenge, drive us nuts but ultimately make life truly worth living.

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvick

The women of Freesia Court form an unofficial book club, which becomes their lifeline over forty years of marriage, children, grandchildren, staying home, starting careers, and everyday life. Laughter is the glue that holds them together. This stalwart group of friends depicts a special slice of American life, who are convinced that there is nothing good coffee, delectable desserts, and a strong friendship can’t fix.

Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym

We all have friends with horrible dating histories, and we’ve all had to endure the meddling of well-meaning friends. Jane and Prudence fit both moulds. Jane, an eccentric and married 40-something, decides to play matchmaker for her younger, unlucky-in-love bestie, Pru. But while Jane strings her cupid’s bow, Pru wrestles with her growing (and entirely NSFW) feelings for her boss. Barbara Pym’s funny and searing novel about life, love, and friendship will be a new favourite for Jane Austen fans.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

For a more challenging context Khaled Hosseini “shows us the interior lives of the anonymous women” in war-torn Afghanistan (USA Today). Among them, are Miriam and Laila, whose unexpected but unique bond is a source of strength amidst constant danger. This multi-generational story of sacrifice and friendship is anchored by two stunning female characters whose love survives impossible odds.

Wonder by RJ Pallacio

New York Times Bestseller for the past five years tells the story of August, a boy with severe facial deformity who just wants to be treated like an ordinary kid. The characters voices converge to portray a community as it struggles with differences, and challenges readers, both young and old, to wonder about the true nature of empathy, compassion, acceptance, friendship, and—ultimately—kindness. Auggie is a life affirming hero for all ages and one who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud.

At first appearances, Messud's novel about a group of Brown University graduates struggling to find themselves as they reach 30 seems to be about friendship (and frenemyship) rather than family relations. But oh, the family stuff goes deep, and dark, and it's a fascinating twisty and compelling read. Plus: Aren't friends just another form of family, sometimes?

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

An extended vacation should be a time of joy and celebration – beautiful scenery, sand and tapas a promised escape from the dramas of home. Meet the Post family where the near empty nest collides with the dreams of the new generation.  Over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated. The Vacationers is a beautifully told story that tiptoes through family angst and connection with hilarity and truth we can all identify with. 

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

A complex and thought-provoking tale based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong with our families.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

No one explores the often rocky and challenging relationship between mothers and daughters, and what it means to be lifelong friends, better than Rebecca Wells. Poignant, funny, and outrageous, daughter Sidda struggles to analyse her mother and comes face to face with the tangled beauty of imperfect love, and the fact that forgiveness, more than understanding, is often what the heart longs for. One to read again and again.

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