(Reviewed by Kam Aures JUN 01, 2004)
"Sam would never understand that for Roy, making love could be a three-second meeting of the eyes with a woman in the window of a passing bus. At the same time, Roy still loved all the women with whom he had ever had intimate relations, a sizeable company if not multitudinous as Sam imagined, though no account was actually kept. Roy liked to think a great many of his former partners shared the feeling, though he knew not all did. There were of course those who felt rejected, even betrayed, when it was he who brought it to an end, and not even all of those who took the initiative in terminating the affair could forgive him for sincerely agreeing with their decision."
Sam Grandy’s best friend Roy Courtright is single, healthy and good-looking. He owns a classic car dealership and, even though the business has never turned a profit, he has never wanted for money due to an inheritance from his father. Sam is almost the exact opposite; he is married, overweight and near bankruptcy. He always buys frivolous items that he cannot afford and is careless with them once they are in his possession. For instance, he spent over a thousand dollars on an espresso machine only to give it away before he had the chance to use it and one time he threw a three thousand dollar laptop into the fireplace because it was being temperamental. For twenty years he has been borrowing money from Roy and has never offered to repay him even a dime. This lack of repayment appears not to bother Roy, as he just seems to look at it as helping out a friend.
Kristin, Sam’s wife of three years, has always seemed to not care too much for Roy and they really have never had much of a friendship. However, once Sam is hospitalized for chest pains Kristin and Roy start to connect. At the same time that they are beginning to form a friendship, the twenty-year friendship between Roy and Sam is beginning to become strained. Their differences are becoming more and more apparent and are starting to lead to problems.
Thomas Berger is a well-established author having written twenty-three other novels in the past 46 years. Best Friends is the first that I have had the pleasure of reading and I must say that I am truly impressed. His novel deeply examines the workings of a very complex friendship and the duties and responsibilities that come along with it. Berger’s exploration into this friendship is extremely thought provoking, which completely draws the reader in. All of the characters, especially the three main ones --Roy, Sam and Kristin -- are so well developed that you feel as if you know them all personally; by the end of the novel you come away feeling that you know all that you can possibly know about them.
Berger skillfully infuses just the right amount of wit and wisdom into the novel to keep the reader’s attention. When I first started the novel, Berger’s prose style and language use gave me the impression that there would be parts of the novel that would drag but this was not the case at all. Best Friends flowed very smoothly from the first page until the last. Now that I have gotten a taste of Berger’s writing, I look forward to checking out his previous novels and any books he may write in the future. If you have never read one of Berger’s novels you are missing out on an incredible author.
- Amazon readers rating: from 7 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Crazy i n Berlin (1958) *
- Reinhart in Love (1962) *
- Little Big Man (1964)
- Killing Time (1967)
- Vital Parts (1971)*
- Regiment of Women (1973)
- Sneaky People (1975)
- Who is Teddy Villanova (1977)
- Arthur Rex: A Legendary Novel (1978)
- Neighbors (1980)
- Reinhart's Women (1981) *
- The Feud (1983)
- Granted Wishes: Three Stories (1984)
- Nowhere (1985)
- Being Invisible (1987)
- The Houseguest (1988)
- Changing the Past (1989)
- Orrie's Story (1990)
- Meeting Evil (1992)
- Robert Crews (1994)
- Suspects (1996)
- The Return of Little Big Man (1999)
- Best Friends (2003)
- Adventures of the Artificial Woman (May 2004)
*Features character Carl Reinhart
Movies from books:
- Little Big Man (1970)
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- Curled Up review of Meeting Evil
- The New York Times review of Little Big Man, the movie
- Read a chapter excerpt from The Return of Little Big Man
- CityPages review of The Return of Little Big Man
- Salon.com review of The Return of Little Big Man
- ReviewOfBooks.com collection of reviews for Best Friends
- Read an excerpt from Adventures of the Artificial Woman
- The Village Voice review of Adventures of the Artificial Woman
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About the Author:
Thomas Berger is the author of twenty-three novels. His previous novels include Best Friends, Meeting Evil, and The Feud, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His Little Big Man is known throughout the world.
He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1924 and grew up in small neighborhood north of there. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Cincinnati and began graduate school at Columbia University in 1950. He took all the requisite classes for the Master of Arts program, but never finished his thesis; in 1951, Berger gave up both his library career (had been working in local libraries since high school) and graduate studies to take a staff job at the New York Times Index. One year later, he became an associate editor at Popular Science Monthly; however, that job, too, lasted just one year.
In 1958, Berger published his first novel, Crazy In Berlin. A critical success, Crazy was based loosely on his experiences abroad while in the army and ended up sparking Berger's career as a professional writer.
Berger's career as a writer is long and varied; in addition to novels, he has written plays, academic texts, and a collection of short stories. He has also been published in major magazines across the country, and he even served briefly as film critic for Esquire Magazine in the 1970s.