The other day, I made it to Panera by 8:19 in the morning, thoroughly impressed with myself for getting there so early and determined to have a productive day of writing without distraction.
I settled into a booth facing the window and opened my laptop as two ladies sat down at a nearby table. Moments later, two more ladies arrived and excited greetings were exchanged all around. Compliments flew about hair and attire, and one woman commended another for choosing oatmeal over her giant muffin.
This scene could have been described in Melanie Shankle’s new book, Nobody’s Cuter than You: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship — except the ladies I saw at Panera were about two decades older than the four friends described in the memoir. Nevertheless, I still found myself picturing the four women in Panera as Mel, Gulley, Jen and Tiff, twenty years from now — laughing and chatting as if no time had passed.
Melanie has written in the past on motherhood and marriage, but in this latest book, she explores the intricate relationship of female friendships.
I laughed out loud through her first two books, Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching the Light at Every Turn and The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life — and this collection was no exception. However, in my opinion, Nobody’s Cuter Than You has an added depth and maturity. It’s filled with hilarious anecdotes, but the lessons gleaned about friendship are rich and full of wisdom.
Throughout the book, Melanie aptly chronicles the whole gamut from early childhood bonds, to the awkward teen years; crazy college shenanigans, and even the challenges of navigating post-college and married life friendships.
I found this book to be both realistic and encouraging. Melanie didn’t shy away from some of the pain that can occur as a result of female friendships, because “any time you attempt to put all your faith in another human being, it’s inevitable that it will lead to disappointment.”
She addresses the sting of betrayal and the hurt caused both by petty accusations and deep, intentional wounds, sharing that “sometimes the best lessons are the ones that hurt the most.”
Melanie touches on the depth of emotion involved when friends truly love each other, and reminded me of the command found in Romans 12:15 to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.” When her friend Jen’s dad died, Melanie learned one of the most important lessons about what it means to be a good friend: “You show up for your people.”
When one of her friends from years past called her up out of the blue and announced that she was getting a divorce, Melanie remembers, “All she wanted was someone to help her through the pain, and all I wanted was to make her pain go away. Ultimately, that’s one of the cornerstones of friendship.”
Tears definitely welled up in my eyes as I read the chapter about Melanie’s friend Jen being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Melanie writes, “We live in a world where tomorrows are never guaranteed and pain lurks around every corner. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and acknowledge that you’ve been given a gift ….”
I also enjoyed reading about how God used friends in Melanie’s life to draw her back to Him. The thread of faith and the importance of depending on God is evident in her story.
Referring again to Jen’s journey with cancer, Melanie testifies, “Sometimes the things that make sense in light of eternity don’t make sense while we’re still walking it out here on earth. Yet we will trust him; yet we will praise him.”
Melanie wraps up her memoir with these beautiful, wise words:
“A good friend will love you, support you, and cheer you on. A good friend doesn’t make you feel inadequate or like you’re not good enough. A good friend won’t dump you when someone better comes along or ask you to compromise who you are and what you believe.
These are the lessons we need to instill in the young women who are coming behind us, because there are few things in life worth having as much as a few close friends, and it’s worth trading popularity for authenticity. In this new world we’ve built of Facebook friends and Instagram likes and texting instead of listening to an actual voice, it’s still worth going deeper and finding people who will love you for your real, authentic, broken self. And, most important: to find that person means we have to be that person.”
As I sat my local Panera that rainy morning, two of the four ladies nearby got up to refill their coffee mugs. One of the two remaining turned to the other in all gentleness and love and asked, “Okay, what’s bothering you?” To which the other sighed before replying, “Is it that obvious?” I glanced over and saw the woman dab her eye with a tissue, and thought about this book.
According to Melanie, “We have a tendency to swim in the shallow pool of relationships because we know that getting deep can equate to being vulnerable.”
Investing in female friendship can be a messy business, but it’s so worth it, because as Melanie says, “there is nothing as precious in life as a friend who knows you and loves you in spite of yourself.”
For a great new read, go ahead and click on over to Amazon to get yourself (and your best friend) a copy of Nobody’s Cuter than You: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship!
Learn more about Melanie Shankle and her writing by hopping over to her blog or following her on Twitter.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. Also this post contains affiliate links to Amazon.