The way to keep friends? Julie Klam leads inspiring tour

As we navigate life’s highway we know where we are headed and where we have already been, by the road signs, if you will. Friendships can represent signs indicating possible destinations. Some friends can help us to move in the right direction. Others might leave us stranded in the ditch.

Take a moment to reflect upon the nature of your friendships. Do you make friends easily? Julie Klam compares friendships to bridges; they both require regular maintenance and inspections. When problems are ignored bridges and friendships can begin to fall apart.

Klam has written “Friendkeeping: A Field Guide to the People You Love, Hate, and Can’t Live Without.” The author’s friends are essential to her. She writes that “my friends are my fortune.”

So how can we maintain our friendships? We lead busy lives. In “Friendkeeping” we are taken on a guided tour through Klam’s hectic life in Manhattan. We meet her best friends.

“Friendkeeping” is Klam’s fourth book. All four of them are written in the form of memoirs. She has a gift for sharing emotionally resonant glimpses of her life through choice anecdotes. Life brings joy and sorrow. Klam has the ability to address weighty topics like the illness of a friend, the tragic death of one her dogs, or her relationship with her mother with a nuanced perspective that is warm, sensitive, and when it comes to her beloved Boston terriers, downright waggish.

This is not an advice manual or how-to guide. While reading it I found myself reflecting on the friendships that have been important to me. Be warned, reading this book could become expensive. It might inspire you to give gifts to your friends. That’s a good thing, right?

Klam is truthful with her friends, up to a point. She doesn’t tell them everything that she is thinking because sometimes being a friend means holding one’s tongue to refrain from saying hurtful things. Critical comments about a friend’s appearance, for example, might best be left unsaid.

She observes that “everywhere we look someone has cancer … how do you act?… What do you do?” The author has discovered that when a friend is dealing with a serious health issue that being able to provide an entertaining distraction can be better than dwelling on more serious subjects. We all need a break from our worries.

When she has friends who seem to have lost their way Klam doesn’t give up very easily: “When people go off the deep end it doesn’t mean thay have to stay there — when they come back its nice to have a friend waiting with a warm towel.”

In an interview Klam told me that “with your friendships you want to have these strong relationships that you don’t just work on when you need something or want to celebrate something.” This wise, endearing book might be just the thing to share with your friends.

You can hear my interview with Julie Klam at 11 a.m. today on WYSO-FM (91.3).

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