The Best of Friends

Written by Sarah M. Eden
Review by Ray Thompson

1819. Daria Mullins and Toss Comstock like each other well enough, but when they learn that they are both struggling with unkind and controlling family members, they form a bond. To cheer themselves up, they play a game: who can engage in the most activities that will be disapproved of by her parents and his older brother? As they spend time together, however, they gain an appreciation of each other’s admirable qualities and start to fall in love.

Since a large number of friends rally to provide sympathy and assistance, this is a crowded canvas, and the lovers’ anxious state of mind does become repetitive. Nor is it clear why Toss’s brother seems to undergo a change of heart at the end. There are, however, valuable insights into how harsh criticism can undermine self-confidence, and the pressures created by the ruthless exercise of patriarchal authority and financial control over others. And to rigid mindsets: as Daria observes about Toss’s brother, ‘he is like my parents… he cannot see anything he hasn’t already decided to believe.’ Sadly, this is an increasingly worrisome concern.