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A Novel

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On Sale: June 14, 2011
Pages: 384 | ISBN: 978-0-679-60509-6
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Synopsis

Return to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants . . . ten years later
 
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ann Brashares comes the welcome return of the characters whose friendship became a touchstone for a generation. Now Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget have grown up, starting their lives on their own. And though the jeans they shared are long gone, the sisterhood is everlasting.

Despite having jobs and men that they love, each knows that something is missing: the closeness that once sustained them. Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to be married, but misses her friends. Lena finds solace in her art, teaching in Rhode Island, but still thinks of Kostos and the road she didn’t take. Bridget lives with her longtime boyfriend, Eric, in San Francisco, and though a part of her wants to settle down, a bigger part can’t seem to shed her old restlessness.

Then Tibby reaches out to bridge the distance, sending the others plane tickets for a reunion that they all breathlessly await. And indeed, it will change their lives forever—but in ways that none of them could ever have expected.

As moving and life-changing as an encounter with long-lost best friends, Sisterhood Everlasting is a powerful story about growing up, losing your way, and finding the courage to create a new one.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

Once, when she was thirteen, Carmen remembered turning to Tibby with her CosmoGirl magazine in one hand and her eye pencil in the other and declaring that she could never, ever get sick of doing makeovers.

Well, it turned out she could. Sitting in the makeup chair in early October in a trailer parked on the corner of Bleecker Street and the Bowery in the East Village of Manhattan, getting her hair blown out for the seven millionth time by a girl named Rita and the foundation sponged onto her face for the eight millionth time by a girl named Genevieve, Carmen knew it was just another mile on the hedonic treadmill. You could get sick of anything.

It was true. She’d read an article in Time magazine about it. “You could even get sick of chocolate,” she’d told her mother on the phone the night before.

Her mother had made a doubting sound.

“That’s what I read, anyway.”

Being an actress on a TV show, even a moderately good and successful TV show, involved a few minutes of acting for every few hours you spent in the makeup chair. And even when you were done with the makeup—temporarily, of course; you were never done with the makeup—there was still a whole lot of sitting around drinking lattes. That was the dirty secret of the entertainment industry: it was boring.

Granted, Carmen didn’t have the biggest part in the show. She was Special Investigator Lara Brennan on Criminal Court. She showed up at least briefly at a crime scene in almost every episode and sometimes got to appear as a witness on the stand.

“Eyes up,” Genevieve said, coming in with a mascara wand. It was rare that Carmen needed a prompt. She knew exactly which way to turn her eyes for each portion of the mascara application. If she didn’t stay ahead of it, Carmen feared she’d end up like one of the many dolls she’d mangled as a child with her constant brutal efforts at grooming.

Carmen studied her hair in the mirror. She’d never thought she’d get sick of that either. She squinted down the highlights. They were a little brassy, a little bright this time. She would have liked to go darker, but the director wanted her light. Probably because her character’s surname was Brennan and not Garcia.

Carmen jiggled her phone in her hand and thought of who to call. She’d already spoken to Lena once and her agent twice. Her mind summoned a glimpse of Tibby’s face, more out of loyalty than an expectation of actually talking to her. Since Tibby had moved to Australia with Brian almost two years before, Carmen had almost given up hope of reaching her in real time. Tibby’s move had been hasty, somewhat disorganized, and just . . . far. The sixteen-hour time difference was a constant impediment. Tibby had gone from place to place at first and didn’t get a landline until long after Carmen had given up on the idea. International calls between their cellphones were plagued by stupid complications, mostly on Tibby’s side. In a couple of weeks. In a month. By next spring. Those were the times when Carmen told herself they’d resume regular contact. Carmen often thought of hauling over there for a visit. This past June she’d staked out a date on the calendar, and Bee and Lena had instantly agreed to the scheme. When she’d emailed Tibby about it, Tibby’s return had come more quickly than usual. “Now’s not a good time.”

Carmen took it personally for once. “Did I do something?” she’d asked in her next message.

“Oh, Carma, no. You did nothing wrong. Nothing. Just busy and unsettled here. It’ll be soon. I promise. I want to see you and Len and Bee more than anything else in the world.”

And there was Bee. Carmen hadn’t seen her since Bridget’s last swing through New York over the Christmas holidays, but there were long periods when Bridget and Carmen talked every day—that is, as long as Bee hadn’t lost her phone or neglected to pay her bill for too long. Bee was the best possible distraction from an hour in the makeup chair. But Carmen hesitated to call her now. It had been awkward between them for the last few weeks, since Bee had effectively called Jones an asshole.

Well, to be fair, Bee hadn’t just come out and said “Your fiancé is an asshole.” In fact, to be fair, it was Carmen who’d called him an asshole and Bee who’d lost no time in agreeing with her. But Carmen was allowed to say Jones was an asshole. She was the one marrying the asshole.

Carmen’s phone rang, saving her the trouble of dialing anyone, and she snapped it up. The earphones were already stuck in her ears. She was one of the few people she knew who answered the phone as she checked the caller ID, not after.

“Hey, babe.”

“Hey, Jones.”

“In the chair still?”

“Yep.” Jones was in the business, so he knew how it went. Besides, he’d called her half an hour before.

“How late are you shooting tonight?”

“Till around seven, Steven said.”

“If you can, cut out a little early and come directly to the Mandarin, all right? It’s the pre-party before the big Haiti benefit. It’s important for you to at least show.”

“It won’t make a difference to Haiti if I don’t get there in time for the pre-party.” It was one of three benefits they had on the calendar that week.

“It’s not about Haiti,” Jones said, as though she were being dense. “It’s about the Shaws. They invited us, and I don’t want to stiff them. She’s probably going to be head of production by next year. We’ll be out of there by eight. Nobody’s going to stay for the whole thing.”

“Oh. Of course.” Cynical though she was, Carmen never remembered to be quite cynical enough. Why would she think the Haiti benefit was about Haiti and not about the Shaws? Why would she think the gala was about the gala and not about the party before the gala? If not for Jones, she could have been one of the boobs who thought it was about Haiti and stayed for the whole thing.

It was endlessly tricky being in the know. It was a state Carmen had achieved with a certain bravado, but she found it difficult to maintain. Without Jones, she could easily slip out of the know, relapse into her natural eagerness, and probably never get hired for another part in her life.

“It’s a game and you play it,” he often told her when she felt discouraged or repulsed. “If you want to succeed in this business, it’s what you do. Otherwise, you gotta pick a different business.” He was thirty-nine years old to her twenty-nine. He’d been doing it for sixteen years, he always reminded her. But he didn’t need to tell her. Whether or not she liked it, she was perfectly good at playing the game when she chose to.

“I’ll try to be there before seven,” she said.

Carmen felt vaguely dissatisfied as she ended the call. It wasn’t that Jones didn’t care about charities. He did. Every month he put five percent of his earnings into a charitable fund. You couldn’t fault him for that.

“Was that your boyfriend again?” Rita asked.

Carmen nodded distractedly. Sometimes it was hard to know what you could fault him for.

“He’s an executive at ABC, isn’t he?”

She nodded again. Everybody in this business was looking for another contact.

“Lucky you,” Rita said.

“Yes,” she said. And not just because he was her boyfriend, but because he was her fiancé. If she was lucky, then she was extra lucky.

And what if she wasn’t lucky? Then what was she?





Lena put her feet up on her desk. The pink polish her sister, Effie, had applied to her toenails during her last visit had long since started to chip. Lena balanced a sketchbook on her knees and began to flip through it.

She’d promised herself she’d clear out her apartment today. She was committed to filling a couple of trash bags with stuff—her place was too tiny to store anything extra—but of her twenty-seven sketchbooks, she hadn’t yet been able to throw away even one. This one, for instance, was an old one. On the first page was a pencil sketch of Mimi, Tibby’s old guinea pig, fat and asleep in her shavings. As long ago as it was, Lena vividly remembered the joyful chaos of pencil lines that had gone into sketching those shavings. There was a drawing of Bridget at sixteen, knees up on the couch, watching TV with a tipping sombrero on her head. It must have been a week or two after she’d gotten back from her soccer camp in Mexico. It was a loose pencil sketch, and Lena smiled at the hatching lines she’d used to represent the suntan on Bee’s cheeks. Every few pages was one of the inescapable drawings of Lena’s feet. There was a half-finished sketch of grumpy morning Effie at fifteen, too grumpy to let Lena finish it. There were three studies of Carmen’s hand from when she still wore a mood ring and bit her fingernails. How could you throw this away?

The later sketchbooks would be easier, Lena decided. They were mostly just feet and dated from about two years earlier, when Lena had mostly petered out on drawing. Instead, these last couple of years she had been putting her energies into her paintings, which were composed, formal, and largely abstract. You weren’t going to build a career out of making messy little sketches of your friends and family and your feet.

Why all the drawings of her feet? They were not her best feature, probably her worst. They were size nine and a half, ten in some shoes, and prone to sweating when she was excited or nervous. Her toes were kind of long, especially the second and third—the Home and the Roast Beef, as Tibby’s mother would call them. The only advantages her feet had going for them as subjects was that they were attached to the bottoms of her legs and at enough distance that she could look at them from different angles. They were living and stayed still when she told them to, and they didn’t charge modeling fees. She imagined the far future if anybody ever cared enough to look back at her drawings. This girl really had a thing for her feet, they would think. Maybe she would throw those last two sketchbooks away.

The phone on her desk rang. She plucked it from its cradle without moving her sketchbook. She didn’t have caller ID (it added $6.80 a month to her plan), but she knew it was almost certainly one of three people: her mother, her sister, or Carmen. Whichever one it was, she was on her cellphone, she was in a hurry, and she was calling to “check in.”

Lena cleared her throat before she hit the talk button. It wasn’t a teaching day, so she hadn’t spoken to anyone yet, and it was already three o’clock. She hated getting busted for that.

“Hey, Lenny, it’s me. Were you sleeping?”

Damn. “No. Just . . .” Lena heard an ambulance and a lot of honking through the phone. “Where are you?”

“On Greenwich Ave. I just got a facial. I look scary.”

It was either Carmen or Effie; still too noisy to tell which. Lena held the phone between her shoulder and her ear and went back to flipping pages. “What are you doing tonight?”

Three of many words were intelligible: “theater,” and “benefit” and “Jones.” It was Carmen.

“Great.” Lena couldn’t pick which of those words summoned the worst thing.

“Jones bought a table.”

Yes, she could pick. The worst was Jones.

“I would have invited you, but you wouldn’t have come.”

“That’s true.”

“And you are . . . staying home and watching a movie with Drew.”

“Yes.” Sometimes Carmen made it easy for her.

“That’s just sad.”

But never that easy.

“No, it’s not sad. It’s what I like to do. Anyway, we can’t all be rich and glamorous.”

“Len, I’m not demanding glamour. You’re just not allowed to be that boring.”

Lena laughed. “Hey, did you do the kissing scene yet with the renegade cop?”

“No, that’s Friday. He has terrible breath.” Carmen’s voice was swallowed by what Lena guessed was a bus plowing by.


From the Hardcover edition.
Ann Brashares

About Ann Brashares

Ann Brashares - Sisterhood Everlasting (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants)

Photo © Sigrid Estrada

“I don’t really write with the idea of trying to teach any lessons. I want to tell a story as truthfully and engagingly as I can, and then let the chips fall where they may.”—Ann Brashares

Ann Brashares grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with three brothers and attended a Quaker school in the D.C. area called Sidwell Friends. She studied Philosophy at Barnard College, part of Columbia University in New York City. Expecting to continue studying philosophy in graduate school, Ann took a year off after college to work as an editor, hoping to save money for school. Loving her job, she never went to graduate school, and instead, remained in New York City and worked as an editor for many years. Ann made the transition from editor to full-time writer to write her first novel, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ANN BRASHARES ON THE SECOND SUMMER OF THE SISTERHOOD

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, your debut novel, received much critical praise, awards, and adoration from readers of all ages. What are your thoughts on its success and why do you think it resonated so heavily with readers?

Its success has been a wonderful surprise each step of the way. From the outset I tried to keep my expectations very low. I know how hard it is to get a book published let alone have it succeed. I’ve read many excellent books that did not succeed commercially. Here I give credit to the publisher, Random House, and to the booksellers. They supported the book wholeheartedly.

To the extent that it has resonated with readers, I am grateful for it. I sense that they have responded, more than anything else, to the unconditional love and loyalty that the Sisterhood represents.

Has the success changed your writing process and expectations for the The Second Summer of the Sisterhood?

I tried not to let the success change anything, but it kept creeping into my consciousness anyway. I worried that I wouldn’t live up to the hopes of my readers. I worried that I would forget how to write. I worried that I never knew how to write in the first place. I worried a lot and I wrote very little.

When I finally forced myself back to my computer, I worried I had fallen out of touch with my characters. They felt to me like friends with whom I'd been intensely close, but hadn't seen in a long time. It's painful, in a way, to have to ask clunky, anonymous questions of people you used to know in an intimate, hour-by-hour way. Luckily, though, when I started to spend real time with Carmen and Bee and Tibby and Lena, I relaxed. I grew close to them again and enjoyed being with them so much, I forgot all the things I was worrying about.

As for expectations, I still try to keep them in check. But I do allow myself to hope. I hope that readers who liked the first book will like the second one, too.

Did you plan for the girls’ relationships with their mothers to play a stronger role in The Second Summer of the Sisterhood? Does your relationship with your own mother resemble any from the book?

It didn’t start out that way exactly. As I was working out stories for each of the girls, I realized that most of them involved their mothers to some degree. So I just went with it. The mother-daughter bond is about as rich a subject as any I know. And I felt those relationships could give a center of gravity to a book that otherwise ran the risk of going in too many directions at once.

My relationship with my mother doesn’t resemble any of the ones in the book precisely. There are some thematic similarities to Carmen, though, in that my parents were divorced and I had to come to terms with my mom having a romantic life of her own.

As the mother of three young children, do you find that you relate more to the girls or their mothers?

Even though I’m closer to the age of the mothers, I related more to the daughters. I think that’s because I wrote the book from the girls’ points of view. Although I tried really hard to imagine how the mothers would feel, I didn’t actually spend my days thinking their thoughts the way I do when I’ m writing in a character’s point of view.

Also, my daughter is not a teenager yet. When she gets to be a teenager, then I’ll really understand what those mothers go through.

Female friendship remains a central theme in the second book, do you have your own Sisterhood? In your writing, you seem to have a real understanding of the importance of those bonds, how have you come to know that?

I have a few very good old friends from childhood and some more recent friends whom I love dearly. But truthfully, I think the Sisterhood is more fantasy than reality for me. I grew up in a house full of boys (wonderful boys, I should mention), and always dreamed about sisters.

Do you have a sense of where the girls will be “next summer”? How do you see their growth continuing?

Next summer will be the girls’ last before they split up to go to college. That’s going to be a big deal for them. I suspect Tibby is going to fall in love for the first time. I have a feeling Bridget might encounter Eric, the soccer coach, again. I have a few other plans up my sleeve, but I think I better keep them secret.

What do you hope readers will take away from this second book?

I don’t really write with the idea of trying to teach any lessons. I want to tell a story as truthfully and engagingly as I can, and then let the chips fall where they may. But I realize when I get to the end of the story, I care very much that my characters evolve and grow. In spite of their torments and their selfish impulses, I care that they are guided by a spirit of goodness. I want them to set a high standard for compassion and for friendship.

ANN BRASHARES ON THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS

How did you come up with the book’s unique central concept? Why traveling pants?

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
was born in an unusual way. I was working as an editor at the time, chatting in the office with a colleague and friend who told me about a summer when she and some girl friends shared a pair of pants. She told me the pants had sadly been lost in Borneo. My mind was immediately filled with all sorts of wonderful possibilities.

I think pants have unique qualities, especially in a woman’s life. Whatever bodily insecurities we have, we seem to take out on our pants. In high school, my friends would have their skinny pants and their fat pants. I like pants that allow women not to judge their bodies. The Traveling Pants are the kind of pants that always love you. They fit my characters’ bodies in a non-restrictive way.

Describe your favorite pair of pants. What makes them your favorite?

At the moment, my favorite pair of pants are bright red. They are cropped, slightly flared summer pants. Like a good friend, they are flexible, forgiving, and boost my confidence even on really off days. They are low maintenance pants–never requiring dry cleaning or even ironing. The waistline is zippered and definite, so it doesn't have that subtly defeated quality of elastic. And these pants manage to make me feel loved even through major body transitions (like having a baby!).

This story should resonate with young women because sharing clothes is such an integral part of many female friendships. Did you have a clothes-sharing experience that helped to shape the book?

The concept of The Pants is directly related to my experience with my wedding dress. Before I had chosen a wedding dress, I had a picture in my mind of what mine would look like. One day, my mom and I were touring wedding venues in the Washington, DC area where I grew up. Our guide showed us some wedding photographs, and one of them showed a bride wearing a dress just like the one I had imagined. The tour guide invited me to take the picture home, so I did, and I left it in my drawer.

A few months later, the sister of a friend, a young woman named Hope, asked if I had picked my wedding dress. I hadn't. Hope’s recent wedding hadn’t worked out. She wasn't broken-hearted about the groom, but she was broken-hearted about her beautiful, amazing dress not being worn. She asked me if I would consider wearing it at my wedding. I didn't know Hope very well, so I politely declined a few times. Yet she was strangely insistent and later arrived at our friend's apartment with a huge box. Through the clear plastic front I could see that the dress inside was remarkably familiar. It was exactly the same as the dress in the photograph I had put in my drawer. I was ecstatic.

I tried to give the dress back to Hope, after I had worn it in my wedding, but she didn't want it.

So I decided, in the spirit of her generosity, that it was a fortuitous, serendipitous kind of dress, and needed to be shared some more. Since then, it has been worn beautifully by my older brother's wife, my middle brother's wife, and my lifelong best friend. These are probably the three women I am closest to in my life–my own sisterhood. I'm hoping it will be worn again. In fact, I am imagining that instead of the next bride throwing the bouquet at the end of the wedding, she can ball up my wedding dress and throw that.

Much of the novel takes place in Baja and Greece. Did travel play an influential role in your childhood or teenage years?

I love to travel and have taken a lot of trips, but have never actually been to either Baja or Greece. I did a lot of reading and imagining for those stories. They existed more in my imagination than any place else. I love islands. I loved that Oia, the town where Lena’s grandparents lived, was stuck in time and had this geological drama in the background.

I grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, which was very Plain Jane. When I was a kid, I had a scrapbook that I used to write letters in from places I wished I could have gone. I would imagine being in Argentina and then write about all the incredible things I was seeing there. This book is almost like a continuation of those imaginary years.

How old were you when you first fell in love? Who was he? Where were you?

I first fell in love when I was 14 or 15, but it wasn’t immediate falling in love, it was a slow… slow fall. The person I fell in love with immediately was my husband. He is an artist and we met during my freshman year at Barnard. He sat across from me and drew a picture of me in the Columbia University Philosophy Reading Room. I hadn’t even noticed him, but a friend of mine saw what he was doing and told me. As soon as I went out with him, that was it. It was the first time I felt like I loved someone instantly. We’ve been together ever since.

You’ve written about four very different girls. Are the characters in this book based on people you know or wish you had known?

Oddly enough, they aren’t. They are composites of different people. I based Lena's story on the Greek myth of Artemis, the proud, boy-hating goddess of the hunt who, when spotted bathing by a suitor, turns the poor guy into a stag. I wanted my Lena to be less pleased with herself, though, and for her suitor to be more formidable. The story of Tibby and Bailey I based on the great, great movie It's a Wonderful Life. Bailey started out more like an angel than a person. I imagined her as an angel who revealed the cynical little prejudices and presumptions that I remember finding so seductive when I was fifteen. Carmen was the girl who said things I could never say and Bridget was the girl who did things I would never do.

Who are you most like: Carmen, Tibby, Bridget or Lena?

There’s a little bit of me in each of them. I would say I have more in common with Lena and Carmen than the other two. I have some life experience in common with Carmen, but we are considerably different too. I am a little like Carmen in that I sometimes feel as if I lose myself when I'm out of context. Also, I have dealt with issues of divorce and step families. For the protection of the innocent, though, I must say that my own family circumstances were completely different than hers. As for Lena, I guess I know what it is to feel awkward and inward sometimes, and romantically, to feel like a big chicken. Sometimes the girls provided me with an escape or a fantasy.

Why did you choose Carmen to set up the story?

Carmen struck me as the person who was most conscious–who recognized the importance of the girls’ friendship. She didn’t just live it, she knew it inside and out. I think she’s the most introspective of the four.

What do you think are the most important aspects of female relationships?

Loyalty and love. And I mean the kind of love that parents have–unconditional. So often, relationships become competitive or marked by pettiness or envy. For relationships to really transcend the negative stuff in life, they need to be without judgement. I wanted to create a story about a rare bunch of girls who didn't succumb to malice or jealousy and, instead, learned to grow alongside each other and in support of each other. I like the idea in this book, particularly for Carmen, that they are just going to love each other whole-heartedly, no matter what.

Do you think those things change as people get older?

I think that relationships do change over time. And that’s another reason why Carmen has the role she does. She has an awareness that the relationship is fragile and that so many other priorities, like boyfriends or distance, can get in the way. People’s lives inevitably go in different directions as they get older, when they stop having so much in common. They have to work not to let it go.

What do you hope teens will take away from reading The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants?

Honestly, I mostly hope they'll enjoy it and take pleasure away. I want it to be the kind of book that will stick with them a bit, the way books I liked when I was that age stuck with me. If there's a message, I guess it's just this: love yourself and your friends unconditionally.
Praise

Praise

“A deftly told narrative of finding one’s adult self.”—Entertainment Weekly
 
“[Ann] Brashares nimbly ages her characters, nicely capturing late- twentysomething concerns about marriage, motherhood, and careers as well as love’s enduring power.”—Booklist
 
“Poignant . . . Brashares’s literary response will satisfy readers longing for ‘just one more’ story about their favorite fictional friends.”—Bookreporter.com
 
“Brashares expertly taps into the difficulties of carrying childhood friendship into the trials of adulthood.”—Library Journal
 
“Touching . . . resonant with female friendship.”—The Washington Post

Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. Did re-encountering the Sisterhood in their late twenties change your perception of your favorite character? Has your favorite character changed over the course of the series overall? Why do you think she or he has or hasn’t?

2. What did you think about the relationship between Bridget and Brian in this novel? Did it surprise you?

3. Were you happy to see Lena end up with Kostos? Did you think she would end up with someone else? Why or why not?

4.  What is your favorite chapter-opening quote? Why?

5.  Have you ever lost touch with a close friend? Were you able to mend the relationship, or is it something that got put off for too long?

6.  Did you expect the pants to come back in this book? Why or why not?

7.  Did you read the series growing up or did you come to Sisterhood Everlasting on its own? How do you think it would change your reading of this novel if you had or hadn’t read the other books?

8. Were you surprised by some of the roads the girls had gone down since the last Sisterhood novel?

9. Have you ever felt unfulfilled by your job and relationship, like Carmen did in this novel? Did it take you a while to see it? When you did notice, how did you react?

10. What would you do if you were in Tibby’s shoes and knew that you were going to die soon?


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