Frieda Hamel loves men. But when it comes to having relationships with them, something always goes wrong. Told in two parts, Freida’s story begins in 1981. Starting college at the University of Minnesota, Frieda sheds her past as an unpopular, ugly-duckling high schooler. During her freshman year, Frieda must choose between two very different lovers even as her grades suffer. The most important and lasting relationship Frieda has turns out to be with Helen, whose courage and acerbic wit inspires her. “Boyfriends come and go but real girlfriends last forever,” Helen says, a sentiment that becomes tested by tragedy. In the second part, the thirty-plus Frieda is living in Minneapolis, enjoying greater success as an office worker than she has in the dating scene. A promotion at her company is offset by a frustrating affair with a married man followed by a fling with a guy whose jealous girlfriend goes on the attack. Struggling to overcome her own mistanthropy to help a friend, Frieda meets an exciting younger man while she isn’t looking for romance. Although the tall and handsome Julian holds Frieda’s interest, what makes them compatible could be some of their worst habits. When a coworker is accused of misconduct, Frieda’s decision to help him puts her professional reputation and personal safety at risk. Not your typical chick-lit heroine, Frieda describes her triumphs, failures, and traumas with dry wit and an unsentimental self-awareness.
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What happens when eight young singles cope with Boston-area rent by living together in one big house? Simon Herbst finds out. He shares a bathroom with a woman who’s sexier than his girlfriend; gets caught up in disputes between his housemates; and finds ways to help or betray people who trust him. Near the end of the 1980s, Simon participates in…