It is with great sadness that I’m writing today’s blog post.
I didn’t know Zaslow personally. But I devoured The Girls From Ames in a single weekend, so taken was I with his documentation of the friendship between ten lifelong BFFs from Iowa. It was a book that made me think, a lot, about the nature of relationships and even made me question my own BFF search. I wrote about the The Girls from Ames in MWF Seeking BFF, and wrote blog posts about it here, here, and here (my mother even quoted The Girls in her guest post).
Last year, once MWF Seeking BFF was written and my editor and I had graduated to the “blurb” phase of the book process, we discussed who might be the ideal person to offer a quote for the back cover. Zaslow’s name came up immediately, of course. But would this long-established bestselling journalist have the time, or the interest, to check out a book from an unknown first-time author? I’m sure he didn’t have time for it, but he made time nonetheless, and offered a kind and generous blurb. I still remember the morning I opened the email from my editor to find that quote. It was such an exciting day, and I was—and still am—so grateful.
The literary and journalism world has lost a great man. Aside from The Last Lecture and The Girls from Ames, he co-authored Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope with Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly and Highest Duty with Captain Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger. He was the replacement for Ann Landers at The Chicago Sun-Times for 14 years, and a longtime columnist and reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Most recently, he wrote The Magic Room, about the women who work and shop at a bridal store in Michigan. He was killed in a car accident on his way home from promoting that book.
In looking through my copy of The Girls From Ames, which still has about 30 mini post-it flags protruding from its pages, I’m struck by these lines in the introduction. “I do feel an almost urgent need to understand women. That’s mostly because I am the father of three teenagers, all daughters. I have seen my girls pout and fret and cry over friendships in turmoil, and I have seen how their friends have buoyed them at their lowest moments. … Having observed how my mother, sister and wife built lovely friendships over the years, I naturally hope that my daughters can be as fortunate. When I think about their futures, I want them to feel enveloped by people who love them, and I know they’ll need close, loving friends at their sides.”
He was a wonderful writer. And, clearly, a wonderful dad.