May 09, 1994 12:00 PM

By Meg Wolitzer

The ups and downs of lifelong friendship is the territory of Meg Wolitzer’s charming new novel. Meredith. Lisa and Ann have known one another forever—or at least since their suburban girlhood—and they meet once a month at a local Chinese restaurant. They form an unlikely trio. Meredith is the beauty, Lisa is the “nice” one and Ann is the brains. They like to joke that if you put them all together, they’d form Miss Universe. Now in their late 20s, the characters might not have become friends if they hadn’t grown up in the same town. But “they had a history together, they would tell people, although sometimes the word seemed grandiose, as though the three of them had all been members of the French Resistance.”

Indeed, their history is what keeps these women bonded, even as Meredith becomes a successful television personality, Lisa marries and has a child, and Ann becomes a lesbian activist. In Friends for Life, Wolitzer answers a question—do childhood friendships stand a chance against the ups and downs of adulthood—with a resounding, joyful “yes.” We root for her characters as they pick their way through the emotional minefield of urban life—wishing success not for any single one but for the friendship that seems greater than the sum of its parts. (Crown, $20)

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