Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

Title:  Commencement
Author:  J. Courtney Sullivan
Release date:  June 16, 2009
Publisher:  Knopf
Pages:  336
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Source:  Library

Celia, Bree, Sally, and April couldn’t be more different from each other when they meet as dorm-mates for their first year at Smith College.  But through the trials and tribulations of their freshman year, the foursome develops an intense bond that they feel will remain for the rest of their lives.  A few years after graduation, they return to Smith for Sally’s wedding, close as always.  And even though there are some tense moments before and after the wedding, the women know that their friendships remain solid, if on somewhat shaky ground in some cases.  And in the weeks and months after the wedding, they all must figure out their places.  Their places in the world, and their places in each others’ lives.

I love stories about women’s friendships.  Especially ones where I can get to know all of the characters, as is the case with Commencement.  I particularly appreciated these women’s stories because they really reminded me of my friends.  I, too, have a group of close girlfriends who I have known for a very long time (in my case, since middle school).  There are six of us, and we couldn’t be more different from one another.  And right now, between the six of us we live in five different states.  But no matter how much time or distance separates us, I feel that these girls will always be extremely important to me and close to my heart.  It sounds cliché and silly, but it really is that way.  So, I understood the complicated but fantastic friendships that Celia, Bree, Sally, and April shared.

My personal connection to the book aside, this really is a fantastic story that I truly enjoyed.  All four of the characters were well-drawn, complex, interesting, and such individuals.  The book was written in alternating voices between the four, and it was so easy to tell where one left off and another started.  Their voices were really that distinct.  In addition, the writing in Commencement is very smart and witty, probably because the characters were graduates of Smith College (plus the author herself went to Smith College), so they were supposed to be highly educated, intelligent women.  That fact was definitely clear from the dialogue between these women.

Although I enjoyed the twists and turns the novel took, there was one particular aspect of the plot that just broke my heart into a million pieces (and then, luckily, stitched it back up again).  It had to do with Bree and her relationship with another woman.  But I don’t want to ruin it for you, so I won’t say anything more.  That was my favorite aspect of the book, though, so read it to find out what the heck I’m talking about!

I really, really loved Commencement and I’m so happy I read it.  It is so much more than “chick lit”.  It is a good, solid work of fiction about women’s friendships and everything in their lives.  It was well worth my time and I believe it will be worth yours too!

14 thoughts on “Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan”

  1. I loved this book as well and was really happy to get to read it. Part of the draw for me is that the characters went to Smith – I went to a Seven Sisters college myself. Glad you liked it.

  2. I’m adding this to my list right now. Although it may make me miss my best firends who are scattered all over the place!

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