R.I.P. Jeffrey Zaslow

It is with great sadness that I’m writing today’s blog post.

Jeffrey Zaslow, the author of The Girls From Ames and co-author of The Last Lecture died on Friday at age 53.

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 herehere, 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.

9 Comments

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9 responses to “R.I.P. Jeffrey Zaslow

  1. Anonymous

    a beautiful tribute. you brought tears to my eyes.

  2. katieleigh

    I was so sad to hear of Zaslow’s death, too. I loved The Girls from Ames and had been intending to read The Magic Room. He does seem like a great dad and a wonderful man. What a beautiful tribute.

  3. Ashley

    That’s so sad to hear about his passing. I just finished MWF Seeking BFF and Zaslow’s Girls from Ames is next on my list because of your references to it. Thank you for making me aware of him.

  4. Nice tribute. Last Lecture is on my top ten list of must read books.

  5. I thought of you, Rachel, while reading Jeffrey Zaslow’s obituary. Condolences to the literary world and readers who lost a caring, talented man and friend.

  6. Elise

    I was so sad to hear this over the weekend. I first learned about GFA through one of your posts last year. I read it, loved it, and recommended it to my mom – who also read and loved it.

    Strangely, it turned out that Jeffrey Zaslow’s mom and my grandma (mom’s mom) lived together as little girls growing up in Broomall, PA and he and my mom attended high school together! After reading the book, my mom got in touch with both Jeffrey and his mom (who also recently published a book) and they all became Facebook friends. My mom called me on Saturday to tell me the sad news – she’d received a message from Mrs. Zaslow.

    What a huge loss.

    • Elise

      Also, I had no idea he wrote The Last Lecture! I was literally JUST reading about Randy Pausch on Wikipedia over the weekend for no apparent reason. I feel like the universe is telling me to read more of Jeffrey’s work.

  7. nelli

    Oh my…..I have only read a little about the Last Lecture and don’t know much about Jeffrey Zaslow but this news makes me sad. I’ll definitely look out for some of his works and his books. I especially love your quote from The Girls From Ames. How very beautiful.
    Sometimes I hop around the blogosphere, sometimes aimlessly but so often I find an article I ‘needed’ to read. This is one of those. Thanks, Rachel.
    xx

  8. SR Zaslow

    Your beautiful sentiments are much appreciated & I will share them with many others in our family. Knowing Jeff has touched so many in such individual ways is not surprising; but seeing the motivation he’s passed on to you & others to share these vignettes helps fill those empty spaces he has left. If you knew Jeff’s books you knew much about the unique, loving individual he was. May you have continued success in all you do.
    With love & appreciation,
    Jeff’s sister-in-law, SR Zaslow

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