By: Aria Beth Sloss
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company LLC
Publication Date: 2013
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: February 2013
Autobiography of Us is a bittersweet tale of two women facing the world in a time when life was much simpler yet oh so challenging. Aria Beth Sloss’ debut novel introduces beautiful and effervescent Alexandria Carrington to subdued Rebecca Madden. The place is 1960s Pasadena, California. Windridge College for Women is on their horizon; their beacon to make a difference once it is behind them and they are out in the world.
Windridge wasn’t a platform for girls to aspire and achieve greatness. Rather it was a place that educated the next generation of young women of their necessary roles in life. It would equip them with a tool bag filled with proper elocution while instilling them with confidence toward the essence of precision sewing. Upon graduation, each woman would have the mental “how to” guide filled with the quintessentially perfect housewife and eventual motherhood information. What if Alex had aspirations toward becoming the next Hollywood icon and Rebecca, a brilliant doctor? In their junior year and on one particular night, an incident occurs. Thanks to Bertrand Lowell, Alex and Rebecca’s hopes and dreams are quashed. In the aftermath, a tangible wedge is driven between the two girls and the friendship they once had; a wedge that changes the courses of their lives forever.
As the years beyond Windridge unfold, Alex and Rebecca drift further apart. It is not to say that Rebecca could ever forget Alex. The dreams of Alex’s Hollywood stardom fade like the receding stars at the break of dawn even though she remains in southern California. Rebecca, on the other hand, ventures far from her Pasadena home; no longer on a mission to practice medicine. Her focus is to right the tragic outcome of the errors of her ways that one particular night in her junior year. She drifts across the country and finds her space in time in New York—a city far beyond the life she knew growing up. It doesn’t matter. That life isn’t hers to have anymore. Through the struggles and blatant changes of the 60s, losses of family members and the false anchor of establishing their own families, the two women find their way back to each other. The reality, however, is what was once so real and inevitable will never be again.
Aria Beth Sloss developed a familiar plot: two girls coming of age with all the hopes and dreams of achieving the lives they believed they were destined to have. What makes her novel stand out is she took the premise of changing times and a world that continues to unfold around us and anchors it with unique characters. She infuses emotion with her gifted style by raising awareness toward the importance of best friends forever and how easily it can crumble. Ms. Sloss creates a melancholy believability through her artfully placed words via situations and happenings tangibly real. She has a notable patience in playing out the plot; focusing on minor victories at the same time exposing the harsh disappointments because of those victories. I interpret her dedication: “For Dan, who told me so” as her way of delivering not only a haunting message of affirmation, but a personal realization that Autobiography of Us is a story she was destined to write for the audience waiting to read it. Her writing provides the perfect balance of escape and comfort with credibility throughout. In my opinion, she has achieved what many authors aspire to achieve; the accomplishment of telling a story that was meant to be told. No doubt, her driving inspiration was a clear vision of her intended audience. I say well done Ms. Sloss because I believe you achieved just that. Hopefully, this is only the beginning of your writing journey.
Quill Says: Autobiography of Us is a heartfelt rendition as much about the importance of friendship as it is about its harsh realities and vulnerabilities.