What Friends Are For, by J.B. Reynolds

Tracy is worn out from caring for her young daughter Hayley, the fruit of a drunken teenage binge. She’s also fed up with the judgemental remarks not only from her relatives but even from strangers in the street. Pious churchgoers criticise her immoral behaviour and foul language. Her boyfriend Davy is neither very bright, nor at all romantic and doesn’t help with the housework, but he loves Tracey and Hayley.

It’s a total surprise when Kate, the beautiful and well-off mother of another daycare child, Corbin, invites her out for a shopping trip. Kate stops to chat with everyone, buys an expensive bottle of perfume for Tracey’s otherwise disappointing twenty-first birthday, then leaves her to supervise both kids. She bickers when she sees chocolate all over Corbin’s face and reprimands Tracey for smoking. With Hayley screaming on account of a dirty nappy, Tracey finally flies off the handle and insists on going home rather than accepting Kate’s invitation to lunch.

Suddenly, Kate breaks down sobbing, confesses she has no real friend with whom she can be honest, and announces her husband has been cheating on her.

Two lonely young mothers – one rich, beautiful and pious, the other poor, foul-mouthed and worn out – finally meet heart-to-heart and are able to empathise.

This engaging short story is a clever character study of two very different women. It’s a sad but perceptive exposure of rich, hypocritical, arrogant ‘churchy types … who live for gossip and the petty failings of others’ and spank their children in public for minor demeanors, contrasted with the brazen honesty and loving faithfulness shown by the rather coarse, hardworking poor. The book ends abruptly.

I was given a copy of this book with a request to write an honest review.

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