By Sandra Kitt:

Between Friends

Family Affair

By Eva Rutland:

Her Own Prince Charming

The Million Dollar Marriage

Girlfriends by Anita Bunkley, Sandra Kitt & Eva Rutland
(Harper, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-06-101369-2
I am an only child. Throughout my life I have been blessed with a strong contingent of "sisterfriends." Ranging in age from 25 to 89, they live in Chicago, Detroit, Savannah and New York and in Dakar, London, Brussels and Montreal. Ever ready to lend a hand, an ear, a shoulder, a smile, they give me love, perspective, wisdom and harsh truth.

It is this spirit that envelops Girlfriends, a collection of stories about special relationships between and among women. The Harper Collins collection reunites authors Anita Richmond Bunkley, Sandra Kitt and Eva Rutland whose work in the Signet anthology, Sisters, celebrated the bonds of love and kinship between three groups of African-American women.(Copies are still available and I recommend the collection.)

Girlfriends truly celebrates friendships that endure for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, and in sickness and in health. As Anita Richmond Bunkley writes: ”Friendships are just as complicated, stressful, and wonderful as marriages...and just as much work to hold on to.”

Bunkley's “At the End of the Day” is the lead off story in the collection. Houston restaurateur Micere Sendaba owns the trendy "Food for the Soul" with her friends, Jewell and Yvonne. The restaurant is doing well -- so well cookbook and television spinoffs are in the works. Micere survived being abandoned by her husband, Roger, for a 20-year old model and the bitter divorce that followed. For the last six months, the single mother has been involved in a long-distance relationship with a Dallas restaurant owner.

Jealous of Micere's new independence and love life, Roger, a not-so silent partner in the venture, sees being involved in the business primarily as being in her business. His vindictiveness threatens both the business and decades of friendship.

“The Heart of the Matter” by Sandra Kitt is the story of friendships that endure despite disappointments, distance and time.

It was Katherine's wedding day. Everything was supposed to be perfect. But she found herself stood up at the altar -- not by the groom -- but by her best friend and maid-of-honor, Niki Evans. More than a dozen years have passed. Katherine is a widow with a young son. Niki has returned to town to live. The two old friends meet at the grocery store. They are markedly different women.

In “Choices” by Eva Rutland, widow Becky Smart must decide whether to follow the advice of her social-climbing best friend or to follow her heart. Becky has two suitors -- plumber Carl Saunders and businessman Sam Hendricks. Becky is forced to examine her values and those of others around her.

Although each heroine is involved in relationships with men, the emphasis of Girlfriends is on the relationships among women. Despite its title, Girlfriends is not a “girlfriends' book.” ("Girlfriends' books" is a euphemism given to the rash of relationship books that followed Waiting to Exhale. In these stories, groups of friends sit around and lament the dearth of available men in their lives.) The stories in this collection are not stories of women who disparage men while waiting for "the right man" to come along.

For readers who seek stories with strong female characters, with just a hint of romance, Girlfriends is for you.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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