Literature is full of fictional friendships: Jo and Laurie, Emma and Harriet, Gene and Phineas, Nel and Sula, Janie and Pheoby, Gus and Woodrow.* The theme of “friendship” is one that can weave in and out of larger plot points and other tropes in fiction, because no matter if you’re writing your first novel or driving cattle across the plains, it’s your friends who sustain you through your trials and celebrate your successes.
If you’re looking for other novels with fictional friendships, here’s a few to start with:
By Jojo Moyes
Nisha and Sam each have lives that are falling apart in different ways; Nisha’s wealthy soon-to-be-ex husband has cut her off, and Sam’s husband is struggling with depression. When a mix-up with a gym bag and a pair of very expensive red heels brings them together, their fictional friendship results in each woman helping the other become better, stronger versions of themselves.
By Barbara Kingsolver
While Demon’s friendship with Maggot gets him through is childhood, but it’s his friendship with brave, outspoken, no-nonsense Angus that saves his life. In this Pulitzer-prize-winning novel, Angus is the constant in Demon’s troubled life; their friendship is the one example he has of someone seeing him for who he really is.
By Elena Ferrante
Elena and Lila are two girls growing up in post-war Naples. The girls’ lives go in very different directions, influenced by the choices they are able to make regarding their education, but their friendship—sometimes problematic, sometimes authentic—is the complicated relationship that remains a constant.
By Luis Alberto Urrea
Irene Woodward and Dorothy Dunford’s friendship helps them survive the daily brutality of World War II as they work as “Donut Dollies” on the front lines.
By Colleen Oakley
An unlikely but entirely heart-rending friendship forms between elderly Louise and college dropout Tanner. A cross-country escapade ensues when it’s revealed that Louse is not quite the harmless old lady she appears to be. Their friendship illustrates how the choices women are allowed to make impact their entire lives.
By Chris Whitaker
Both a mystery and bildungsroman, this novel tells the story of the friendship between Vincent, who served a 30-year prison sentence for murder, and Walk, his adolescent best friend who turned him in. Vincent’s return to the small California town of Cape Haven tests the limits of both individual relationships and the larger community’s connections.
By Gabrielle Zevin
Ostensibly a novel about video games, Zevin’s 2022 Goodreads Choice award winner is a book about friendship. It explores how their shared childhood history impacts the adult friendship of Sam Masur and Sadie Green when the video game they create together brings them financial success.
*In case you wondered, the books with these fictional friendships are, respectively, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Emma by Jane Austen, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Sula by Toni Morrison, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston, and Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.
Written by Amy, Assistant Librarian