The Foreign Language of Friends
by Nadine Galinsky Feldman
Having been a foreign language teacher, naturally I was drawn to the title instantly. It’s not often that a title really resonates with my own life experiences, but in this case, after reading the book’s description (and the class being a Spanish one too), it was an obvious addition to my book shelf.
When four women meet in a foreign language class, their different backgrounds and experiences cause instant clashes! There’s Julia, vivacious and fun, who longs for something more than the country club, jet-setting lifestyle that she leads. Claire, a company attorney in a male-dominated field, intimidates everyone around her. Shy Ellen is trying to have a personal life while caring for her ailing parents. Mickey, a young newlywed, wants to get out from under the shadow of her domineering parents. As these women face various life traumas, they must learn to lean on each other. Ultimately, the foreign language they must learn is: friendship.
For me, this was a story for and about every woman. Four women, each at a different stage in their lives, join a foreign language class. Their reasons for doing so are as diverse as their backgrounds. Claire is clear about her needs; it all boils down to her career. Ellen struggles with the thought that, like her parents, she may face a future with Alzheimer’s and believes learning a language will keep her brain active and stave off the disease. Julia appears to have everything in life, but there is a void. Is learning Spanish the answer? She doesn’t know, but then again, she’s not even sure what is wrong with her life. Finally, Mickey, the youngest of the group, takes the class almost as an act of rebellion. She wants to make her own decisions for a change and break free from the pressures imposed on her by her new husband and preacher parents.
None of the women would ever have imagined how their coming together would affect their lives; especially given their initial awkwardness with each other, not to mention their contrasting attitudes and behaviours.
As life throws challenges their way, the language class becomes a safe haven, a place to try to forget their problems and work towards new beginnings. However, it is during their study group meetings that their personal issues come to the forefront. It is here too that they learn to open up and share their troubles with each other. What they don’t expect is that they would come to value the comfort and support they receive. Bonds grow stronger and friendships blossom, these are ties that will last a lifetime.
Every reader will see some of themselves in these characters. They are real women with stories that readers can relate to. I am happy to give this a full 5 stars – not just because it’s a well-written story, but because it comes across as thought-provoking and heartfelt, honest and believable. This is fiction with oodles of credibility.