On the surface, the protagonist and Veronica were an unlikely pair, especially when they were first getting to know each other. Alison was twenty-one and worked as a model, and Veronica was a thirty-seven-year-old proofreader. Alison was thin, beautiful, and fashionable, whereas Veronica was plump; unattractive; and wore bow ties, prissy socks, plaid suits, and tacky makeup. But underneath this veneer of incompatibility, they shared an intimacy unequaled by any other friendship in the novel. Veronica wore an “armor of pain” that made it difficult for others to get close, and she let Alison in almost accidentally. Readers see Veronica’s vulnerability during her last meeting with Alison. Alison had been scrambling for the right words to say to a friend so close to death. Understandably, she stumbled and said the wrong thing. In lieu of apologizing, she put her hand on Veronica’s breastbone and “shyly” rubbed her. Alison felt the bones and muscles in Veronica’s chest open a little, “as if feelings of love and friendship had been wakened by the intimate touch.” In the present, the narrator acknowledges that it was wrong of her to show Veronica such tenderness and then leave her. It wasn’t the first time Alison abandoned her friend. After Duncan died, before Veronica grew very ill, Alison invited her to a New Year’s party. She didn’t want to go to a party with Veronica, but she felt obligated. Veronica was badly dressed, and at the party everything she said sounded awkward or insulting. They got into a cab after midnight, and Alison told Veronica she wanted to go to the next party alone. Alison’s other friends kept telling her how brave she was for sticking by Veronica, but Alison was not always brave.

Ironically, Veronica sticks with Alison, even after her death. Alison’s other friends from her past fell away “like empty potato chip bags,” but Veronica went on forever, “down into the ground” like a great mountain....

(The entire section is 769 words.)