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Publisher's Summary

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, 10, and Vivvy, almost 13, 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. 

©2017 Noley Reid (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"[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

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  • Debra Hale Shelton
  • 18-08-19

Terrific book

The book is excellent. The performance is even better. I highly recommend this novel, which deals with the difficult subjects of death, guilt, anorexia and mental illness.