...by focusing on mother-baby relationships, Denworth misses the fact that social brains can and do develop in the absence of mammal-style parental care ... Exploring friendship’s opposite — loneliness — throws the topic into poignant relief, especially when Denworth asserts that what’s striking about loneliness 'is not that those who suffer from it are peculiar, but that they are so ordinary' ... Her account of research suggesting an association between loneliness and autoimmune disease, and her description of a dismal state known as the 'loneliness loop,' are some of the most informative — and from a public health perspective, important — passages in the book.
In an accessible and enlightening style, she takes us with her on her journeys to primatology research sites ... She avoids knee-jerk railing against social media and its overuse ... By highlighting the importance of human connection, Denworth has crafted a worthy call to action.
... [a] deft exploration of the biology of a 'fundamental bond' ... Ms. Denworth does an admirable job of outlining the sources of our yearning for it. She has a solid command of the complex material before her and a seemingly effortless ability to make it not just digestible but engaging ... not just a biological account of friendship but a quick and painless tutorial in the history of evolutionary science, which is revealed to us through the prism of a subject all of us can relate to...Given how much there is to be said about friendship, maintaining this sharp focus must have required discipline ... [Denworth] sensibly resists trying to wrap her arms around research on (to cite a few examples) the effect of our sprawling built environment, our increased tendency to sort ourselves by our politics and preferences, or our growing ethnic diversity—all of which have ramifications for friendship and could fill additional books. For there is more than enough in the life sciences and adjacent fields to keep us busy in a single volume; indeed, the author’s parade of scientists and findings, though carefully presented, inevitably blurs in places as it goes by, trying our patience as even our best friends can sometimes do ... the author is judicious in weighing scientific evidence, most clearly with respect to the effects of videogames and social media on people’s social lives ... In these polarized times, when some readers may object to the very premise that there is something called human nature that can’t be wished away, Ms. Denworth sticks to the science, calmly telling us the truth no matter what we think we need to hear. What else are friends for?