Book review: Local author probes women's friendships

"I Know How You Feel — The Joy and Heartbreak of Friendship in Women's Lives" by F. Diane Barth of Great Barrington is a supportive guide to seemingly every aspect of women's friendships. By clarifying issues in women's friendships, and lending extensive commentary and personal experience in discussing them with women, Barth comfortably and authoritatively offers advice of wisdom, not just her own, but that of many women she has talked to and quoted in the book.

Having been a psychotherapist in New York City for more than 30 years, Barth navigates discussions of what makes up women's friendships with a kind of ease that her clear and active prose makes very readable and reassuring. Both the truth of what women are quoted as saying, and her confidence in the writing, make this book a great resource for both women, who are consciously thinking deeply about friendship, and, really, for anyone who may want to know more about women and how they experience friendship and how it may affect their lives, as in how connected or lonely they may feel.

There is great empathy, kindness, and extensive knowledge gathered from research and literature in these chapters. What seems like a new and complete understanding of these issues, from the warm personal perspectives to the certainty of a full reach on what can and does happen in the world of women, "I Know How you Feel" has much to say about women developing friendships with women. It is very reassuring how much this author and therapist knows and practices, with an apparent ease and confidence in wading into these complex problems, and delivering solutions at every turn. Just as importantly, it is a joy to read how simple and straightforward Barth can make the discussion.

"I know How You Feel" is divided into 13 chapters with such headings as: 1) How Should a Friendship Begin? 2) What Are Women's Friendships? Other chapters review developmental themes such as 4) Disillusionment, Betrayal, and Rejection 5) The Joy of Belonging, the Pain of Exclusion: Groups, Clubs, and Cliques, and 6) How Many Friends Do You Need? The realistic tone of the book draws on and discusses friendships in diverse social and economic circumstances as these circumstances sometimes may in themselves influence the nature of women's friendships. The book addresses women of every age group from their 20s through their 60s and older. The book, of course, explores social media friendships: Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram. Every chapter ends with a section "What You Can Do," adding supportive advice.

"I Know How You Feel" is clearly the culmination and sharing of work from decades of empathic and meaningful support in actually directly exploring friendship with women and having the widest range of clinical knowledge that is absolutely contemporary and relevant to the modern woman. What is also most remarkable about this book is its personal and friendly tone, really getting to the subjects without any jargon but occasionally referencing clearly stated models when helpful. The author is sure and knowledgeable enough to write in lovely, clear style that accommodates language of the many people she has interviewed here. Having authored a widely read Psychology Today blog, which often delves into the subject of women's friendships, this is probably a big part of her success in writing the book.

Colin Harrington is the events manager at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox. He welcomes reader comments at

Read it

"I Know How You Feel — The Joy and Heartbreak of Friendship in Women's Lives

By F. Diane Barth

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2018)

209 Pages


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