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Pretend We Are Lovely: A Novel (Paperback)
On Our Shelves Now
An Oprah Magazine Editors' Pick and Publishers Weekly Best of the Season
It’s the summer of 1982 in Blacksburg, Virginia—seven years after the suspicious death of a son and sibling—and the Sobel family is hungry.
Francie dresses in tennis skirts and ankle socks and weighs her grams of allotted carrots and iceberg lettuce. Her semi-estranged husband Tate prefers a packed fridge and hidden doughnuts. Daughters Enid, ten, and Vivvy, almost thirteen, are subtler versions of their parents, measuring their summer vacation by meals had or meals skipped. But at summer’s end, secrets both old and new emerge and Francie disappears, leaving the family teetering on the brink.
Told from alternating points of view by the four living Sobels, Pretend We Are Lovely is a sharp and darkly funny story of forgiveness, family secrets, and the losses we inherit. At its core is the ever-complicated and deeply-devoted bond of sisterhood as the girls, left mostly to their own devices, must navigate their way through middle school, find comfort in each other, and learn the difference between food and nourishment.
About the Author
Noley Reid lives in Newburgh, Indiana with her two best boys.
In magnetic prose, Reid offers up a scrumptious novel about the things we use to save our fractured relationships.
— Oprah Magazine
Haunting . . . Unfolding over the sticky days of a single summer and fall, Pretend We Are Lovely navigates the complicated waters of eating disorders and mental illness, parental guilt and the sometimes-fragile bonds of sisterhood.
[A] family must navigate the secret currents of guilt,
obsession, loss, and—most dangerous of all—hope in this pitch-perfect
examination of two Southern seasons in 1982. . . . In prose that ambulates
between stark, hallucinatory, fuddled, and chewy according to the guiding
character's point of view, Reid masterfully denies her novel the impulse to
solve its characters' problems.
— Kirkus, Starred Review
Reid transforms the story of a mentally ill mother setting off the implosion of a tight-knit nuclear family into a sharp-edged portrait of the ways in which each member of the family is shaped by the others, with no villains, only victims. . . . A tense, vivid, and sharp novel that captures the complex relationships between the Sobel family members, particularly between sisters Vivvy and Enid.
— Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
In bright-as-a-penny writing, first novelist Reid delivers the absorbing story of the Sobel family of 1980s Blacksburg, VA. . . . A forthright study of a family seeking hope and finding something else, with pitch-perfect detail.
— Library Journal
Noley Reid's stunning novel Pretend We Are Lovely is about hunger—for love, for acceptance, for forgiveness after an unforgivable loss leaves a family shattered. Readers will be spellbound by this intimate portrayal of a family told in a symphony of voices—each member of the Sobel family's search for redemption equally urgent and compelling. Like the best love songs, Noley Reid's novel is sad but hopeful, raw but tender, shocking but, ultimately, deeply comforting.
— Julia Fierro, author of THE GYPSY MOTH SUMMER
Reid writes potently of our most intimate blind
spots: the tangles of love and bodies, nourishment and punishment, grief and
comfort. In her agile hands the complexity of family is dramatically and
— Samantha Hunt, author of THE DARK DARK
[A] book fat with love, full of tender absurdity and absurd tenderness, a story that artfully depicts the first aches and thrills of adolescence while also unmasking the unslakable thirst that slips with us into adulthood.
— Alethea Black, author of I KNEW YOU'D BE LOVELY
[A] novel that will make you laugh and also break your heart in all the right ways . . . Told with wit and charm and compassion, this novel resonates with all that we hunger to have and all that feeds us.
— Lee Martin, author of THE BRIGHT FOREVER
Pretend We Are Lovely is an outstanding, unflinching novel about starvation and indulgence, family and self. Noley Reid writes profound, raw characters with guts and grace. This is one of the most moving novels I’ve ever read.
— Sharma Shields, author of THE SASQUATCH HUNTER'S ALMANAC
In Pretend We Are Lovely, Noley Reid captures what it is to have to be a parent while still a child and does so in the most true and perfect way. Even more magically, she captures the reverse, calling on the children inside us with so much empathy that we come away able to laugh at the pain that makes us wise.
— Tupelo Hassman, author of GIRLCHILD
Hunger shapes the intertwined narratives of Noley Reid’s searing and clear-eyed novel, wherein no one escapes unscathed the emotional starvation of a family.
— Leslie Daniels, author of CLEANING NABOKOV'S HOUSE
Noley Reid's memorable novel is funny and heartbreaking in equal measure.
— Mark Childress, author of CRAZY IN ALABAMA
Food becomes a vehicle for grief in this fascinating, sympathetic family story. . . . Without judgment, Pretend We Are Lovely examines how the Sobels discover a way out of pain by choosing to live—and eat—with each other.
— Foreword Reviews
Poignant and unforgettable.
— Largehearted Boy