Pretend We Are Lovely
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 secret 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, Noley Reid’s 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 school, find comfort in each other, and learn the difference between food and nourishment.
“In magnetic prose, Reid offers up a scrumptious novel about the things we use to save our fractured relationships.”
—O, the Oprah Magazine
“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.”
—Publishers Weekly, Best Books of Summer
“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
“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.”