This is one of the best books I read this year. This memoir is about a friendship between two Yale college students who are members of a secret society they joined as seniors. The book takes us on a forty-year friendship. The story proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that when we let people in at the most vulnerable periods in our lives, we open our hearts to the possibility that our lives will are enriched by the human connections we make.
Will Schwalbe writes with his heart, and it shows. He was an openly gay young man, a junior in college during a period when an unknown disease in the late 70s was killing his community, and no one knew the how’s and whys, so the fear of being gay and exposed was ever-present. It made sense that he would shield his heart. I remember that time, and it was not an easy one. Understanding and tolerance were not woven into our mindsets the way it is now. This story revealed that even in the worse time in history for being gay, we must still be open to the generosity of friends and not discount the concept of friendship because we don’t think the same way. Here, Will accepted a membership into a secret society but was guarded because his experiences told him not to trust people outside the “bubble” he created during his first three years of school.
Enter an athlete, utterly brimming with confidence and zeal to live, as it turned out, a guy with no agenda who just wanted to be friends. Being friends with a “jock” was utterly foreign to Will, but he reluctantly and slowly allowed Maxey to be his friend.
For over forty years, Will and Maxey became close friends, and as they got older, the friendship became more valuable to each of them. We see with such skill that despite Will’s reluctance, this book teaches us that we must allow those who want to be in our lives the gift of friendship and that the most significant gift of all is for us to lower our guard and allow the richness of others to have a dramatic effect on us.