Saturday, October 3

Friends Like These - Danny Wallace

Approaching his thirtieth birthday, Danny Wallace received a box of things his parents had cleared out of their attack. Memories of his childhood flooded back as he rediscovered newspaper clippings, certificates, homework and, most importantly, his old address book. Danny's parents moved around a lot when he was young, forcing him to leave old friendships behind.
Unlike his former girlfriend, who broke up with him on discovering he'd founded a movement without telling her (as recounted in the book Follow Me), Danny's wife agrees that he can try to catch up with the twelve friends from the address book, provided he earn Man Points (by doing all the domestic chores around the house that he puts off), and with the deadline of his birthday.
And thus follows an amusing, touching and engaging account of reconnection after reconnection.
Wallace has a great voice, and the touches of humour (like referring to miniature cans of Heineken has tinyken) contribute to the story rather than overpowering it.

The chapters are interlaced with school day writings ("Tuesday 24th May. I am going to a birth day party on Sunday") to support Wallace's claim of spelling excellence, photos and certificates, and by the belated return letters to a once faithful correspondent. The sequence of events adds a later layer of poignancy that's masterful.
The allure of these kinds of books is three-fold - taking a fairly common idea past it's logical termination point, actually acting on the impulse, and the near lack of adverse outcomes. Who hasn't approached thirty and decided to take stock, or thought about reconnecting with old friends? Without that impulse sites like Friends Reunited wouldn't exist. For most of us, googling the odd name or joining Facebook is enough, but Wallace is determined to track down all twelve friends, and not just email them but meet them in person, which takes him across Europe, the the US, Tokyo and Australia. And his almost reckless disregard (why wait until after the World Cup final to go to Berlin?) is intoxicating to someone who is far more timid and cautious when venturing overseas. I am one of those cautious, planning people and I was vicariously thrilled and wholly amused by Wallace's adventures. I won't go so far as to say I was inspired to see my own old friends face to face, having not so much lost track of them in the first place, but I thoroughly enjoyed the journey. - Alex

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