"MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend" (Ballantine Books), by Rachel Bertsche: Making friends shouldn't be complicated. We've been doing it since we were kids, right?
But for many of us, as a new book points out, "friend-making is not the natural process it used to be." Chicago transplant and journalist Rachel Bertsche discovers this the hard way when she finds herself without close friends to speak of, two years after moving. She comes up with a game plan to change her situation — go on one friend date a week over the next year, 52 in all.
"MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend" chronicles Bertsche's quest. If reading about several dozen meet-ups sounds like a drag, it can be at times. But more often than not, Bertsche's skill as a writer and the myriad ways she finds potential dates keep things interesting. She asks current friends to set her up, approaches prospects at her yoga class and neighborhood restaurant, signs up for a speed-friending event, consults a friend matchmaker and, demonstrating she's willing to give anything a shot, even tries a Rent-a-Friend website.
The book is also peppered with intriguing research on topics like what makes friends click, how many friends we need and the health benefits of having friends. ("Researchers found that having low levels of connection is comparable to smoking fifteen cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic, more harmful than not exercising and twice as harmful as obesity.")
The audience for this kind of a book is probably limited. But Bertsche seems to have a clear idea of her target audience. She gives no explanation when referring to the likes of Regina George (the lead bully in the 2004 movie "Mean Girls"), but feels the need to include this parenthetical comment when mentioning Gallup: "You know, the company that conducts all those polls."
For all the book's weaknesses — the gimmicky premise, the repetitive comparisons between her old friends and new friends, the sometimes tiring accounts of dates — a reader cannot help but root for Bertsche, cheer her successes and consider trying out some of her ideas.