” Is the self really such a fluid thing, something we invent as we go along, almost as a social reflex? Perhaps it is instead the truest thing about us, and it is the revelation of it that is the problem; that so much social interchange is inherently false, and real communication can only be achieved in ways that seem strange and artificial. ” 
In Molly Fox’s Birthday, over the course of one day, during the height of summer in Dublin, a close friend to whom Molly has loaned her house reflects upon the years and the many phases of friendship with Molly and their college friend Andrew. Alone in Molly’s house, and among all her possessions, the playwright, who struggles to complete her latest play because the previous project had been an ignominy, examines their closeness in the early days and how transformations to success in their respective career has changed the dynamics of their friendship.
The initial delight, the sense of connection, and then the distancing, the unravelling of that connection as information is exchanged and it becomes clear why one hasn’t stayed in touch. Defensiveness sets in, and it all ends in melancholy when one is alone again. 
The beautifully poised novel, despite the non-linearity, perfectly portrays life’s caprice through what essentially define life—family, friendship and relationship. As each of the characters cope with triumph, romantic happiness, disappointment, and shock, the novel poses meaningful questions about the presentation of self, about the need for temporary withdrawal from friendship, and perhaps, the necessity for falsehood. Molly Fox’s Birthday is a meditation on friendship and fluidity of self, because we are at each moment of our lives the persons we were and shall become. Madden demonstrates even in the closest relationship there exists areas of reserve and distance that cannot be shared or entered into.
Over the few years I had known her she had drip-fed me bits of information [about her family] . . . Molly sets the tone for any encounter: from day one I have always known instinctively what not to say, when she wanted an issue addressed . . . [96-97]
He told me that his son had just been born. Coming straight from the delivery room, he was in a strange state of extreme emotional openness . . . 
In one day’s time, Madden prises the well-guarded nutshells of her three characters, the three friends, who are connected mostly deeply through their emotionally charged moments, in which they comfort, console, and communicate one another in career bumps, failed marriage, unspoken affection, and family tensions. Molly Fox’s Birthday is honestly told that it feels (reads) less like fiction than personal revelation. It illustrates how one memory triggers another. The book quickly engages my attention and sympathy because of the narrator’s sincere desire to know the Molly that she doesn’t know. It’s written with microscopic sensitivity.
221 pp. Picador Paper. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]