"If I were to name something special that I would want to give every woman on earth, it would be the gift of a healthy relationship with another woman. Women who have strong, genuine friendships feel accepted, affirmed, supported, sustained, and loved, even in the most difficult times. Indeed, authentic relationships between women are enjoyable, beneficial, and powerful — almost breathtaking. It doesn't get much better than that." This is the wish of Joy Carol, an author, speaker, counselor, and spiritual director who leads retreats and workshops across the country on a variety of topics including women's issues. Founder of the Union Center for Women and co-author of the official report on the United Nations' Decade for Women, she was an international consultant on women and development for the Ford Foundation, Save the Children, the U.N. and other international organizations.

This inspiring paperback enables us to see the many ways women nourish their souls through friendship with other women. Those who take the time to give their best to others in this way are also rewarded with happier and healthier lives, according to a report on the Nurses' Health Study conducted by the Harvard Medical School. But friendships in these stressful times are not easy to maintain and a host of problems and challenges face women who choose to invest time and energy and love into friends of the same sex.

Carol begins with an examination of the primal relationship women have with their mothers as their first friends. She talks about her own relationship with her mother and then outlines steps that can be taken when sparks fly and there is conflict, disappointment, and mutual hurts inflicted. It is never too late to transform this "first friendship." Sisters offer another experience of friendship in the family circle. The challenge in these relationships is to accept differences and celebrate commonalities.

The next three chapters deal with emotions that can hinder deep and lasting friendships between women: envy, competition, and anger. Dealing with these emotions is part of the inner work that must be done in any kind of intimate relationship. It takes patience.

Plenty has been written about women in the workplace and finding ways to bring out both feminine and masculine qualities on the job. Carol comes up with some helpful suggestions for women about working well with other women. In chapters on the plus of boundaries, men and friendships, and recognizing needs and feelings, Carol hits high stride with solid insights and ideas for everyone. She shares five stories from the United States and two from India and Germany that "touched my heart and renewed my faith in the tremendous power of women's friendships."

In "Getting It All Together," the author acknowledges the formidable roadblocks and hurtles facing women who want to engage with their women friends in meaningful relationships. In a final wrap-up, she shares her own special recipe for better friendships that includes being truthful, kind, a good listener, and having a sense of humor. Joy Carol celebrates the abundant rewards of friendship among women, making it clear that those that last are usually based on abiding spiritual underpinnings. This book is a must-read for women of all ages!