Pretend We Are Lovely
Consuming and big-hearted, Noley Reid’s Pretend We Are Lovely details a summer in the life of the Sobel family in 1980s Blacksburg, Virginia, seven years after the tragic and suspicious death of a son and sibling.Francie Sobel dresses in tennis skirts and ankle socks and weighs her allotted grams of carrots and iceberg lettuce. Semi-estranged husband Tate prefers a packed fridge and secret doughnuts. Daughters Enid, ten, and Vivvy, thirteen, are subtler versions of their parents, measuring their summer vacation by meals eaten or skipped. But at summer's end, secrets both old and new come to the surface and Francie disappears, leaving the family teetering on the brink.?Without their mother's regimental love, and witnessing their father flounder in his new position of authority, the girls must navigate their way through middle school, find comfort in each other, and learn the difference between food and nourishment.

Pretend We Are Lovely Details

TitlePretend We Are Lovely
Author
FormatPaperback
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 18th, 2017
PublisherTin House Books
ISBN1941040667
ISBN-139781941040669
Number of pages284 pages
Rating
GenreFiction

Pretend We Are Lovely Review

  • Karen
    April 28, 2017
    PRETEND WE ARE LOVELY BY NOLEY REIDThe title of this book sums up the Sobel family--All surface and superficial but horribly dysfunctional.Francie is the mother of two young girls Enid, aged ten and Vivian, aged twelve, almost thirteen. Tate Sobel, father and husband teaches classes at the university and is living in an apartment near campus having an affair with a nineteen year old student named Holly. There was a son named Sheldon that mysteriously and suspiciously died seven years ago at the PRETEND WE ARE LOVELY BY NOLEY REIDThe title of this book sums up the Sobel family--All surface and superficial but horribly dysfunctional.Francie is the mother of two young girls Enid, aged ten and Vivian, aged twelve, almost thirteen. Tate Sobel, father and husband teaches classes at the university and is living in an apartment near campus having an affair with a nineteen year old student named Holly. There was a son named Sheldon that mysteriously and suspiciously died seven years ago at the hands of Francie. It is July, 1982 and Enid and Vivian are starting their summer vacation which they usually hang upside down from trees in the woods that border their backyards. Francie will yell to the girls she is going to play tennis. Her two daughters don't believe her because she never has a tennis racket. Vivian tell's Enid that their mother lies. Francie has promised her daughter's that she is going to sew them a halloween costume, but they would both like a store bought costume--one that comes in a kit with a mask.Pretend We Are Lovely is largely about hunger. Hunger to be a family, hunger to fit in at school, hunger for the devastating loss of their brother and son, hunger for the intimacy of a strong marriage, hunger for love and acceptance. Francie is driving her car in the sunshine, taking the long route:"The girls can hang like monkeys in their tree all they want. I go out of my way, go into downtown, I wouldn't drive to tennis any other route. This is my path. Midway, I slow to pass Carol Lee Donuts but keep my face forward, my eyes in front of me. It doesn't matter. Even just seeing it peripherally, I know the scene by heart. Inside the big picture window, an imposing mixer pipes batter rings that drop into hot oil below. They float and sizzle and the pretty girl with the thick red braid flips them. (Holly as in student having affair with her husband) One by One she dunks soft yellow edges and the fried rings bob up golden brown. I know who she is. To Tate and how long."Francie weighs out and calculates everything she eats and denies herself all of the delicious foods and is proud her bones stick out. Enid is compared to her father by the way she is passionate about eating and is called fat by her mother Francie and sister Vivian. The two daughter's are subtler forms of each parent. Vivian is like Francie and Enid is like Tate in body types.Francie leaves her girls and their father Tate moves back into the family home to take care of his two daughters. She is gone twelve days. When Francie returns she starts eating everything in sight. She abandons her measuring and scales and eats. Enid starts copying her mother's anorexic behavior at ten years old. This is an intimate look into this family that are all looking for ways to fill their holes in themselves. There is hope for most members of this family to heal.Tender, raw, shocking, but always hopeful. The girls have to learn the difference of eating food for sustenance and nourishment versus using food for comfort.In all honesty this was a confusing book to read at times so I have deducted one star. Throughout the whole book the chapters alternate giving all four of the Sobel family their points of view. The dialogue wasn't always linked to a character so it was confusing. At times a character was linked to a statement made. There would be dialogue that followed that wasn't linked to anybody. So I had to re-read and figure out if the fresh dialogue was the same character continuing speaking or if it was the response from a different character, since it didn't indicate who was speaking. In other words, sometimes the writing was choppy because it would not always be clear who was speaking by omitting who was speaking. Thank you to Net Galley, Noley Reid and Tin House Publishing for providing me with my digital copy for a fair and honest review.
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  • Maggie
    July 10, 2017
    Scrappymags 3-word review: Dysfunctional family ruin.  A solid 4/4.5 star My book reviews are all on my website at http://scrappymags.com/ at publication date!Genre: Contemporary fiction (1980's setting), release 7/18/17Shortest summary ever: Francie is a mom to 2 girls - Vivian and Enid (13 and 10 respectively), married to Tate, a college professor. Let's put it this way - she won't be winning mom of the year awards. Estranged from Tate, battling an eating disorder, and haunted by the strange d Scrappymags 3-word review: Dysfunctional family ruin.  A solid 4/4.5 star My book reviews are all on my website at http://scrappymags.com/ at publication date!Genre: Contemporary fiction (1980's setting), release 7/18/17Shortest summary ever: Francie is a mom to 2 girls - Vivian and Enid (13 and 10 respectively), married to Tate, a college professor. Let's put it this way - she won't be winning mom of the year awards. Estranged from Tate, battling an eating disorder, and haunted by the strange death of her son 7 years prior, she barely passes for a mom. Dad is wrapped up with dealing with this, and he's no angel either. What’s good under the hood: Adoring the revolving narratives, I dove into each member of the family with gusto, and they are well written. The two girls mirror their parents in many ways, some positive, some sad. It's a lesson in what kids learn from their environment (good and bad). A rarity, my gauge on characters I liked/didn't like changed so much in the course of the story that it kept me guessing until the last page. I enjoyed the story and thought it to be REAL - all the nitty gritty don't-really-want-to-read-this-sad-stuff-but-have-to REAL. Real to me is often magical - like I'm a voyeur peeking in at this dysfunctional family. I felt embarassed for them and embarassed that I was watching, but like the proverbial train-wreck, I couldn't look away. What’s bad or made me mad: Nothing made me outright mad, but it's a slower paced novel of a serious nature. Without giving spoilers, I was disappointed with a vague aspect of the story that I wanted a resolution to and never received. I never REALLY understood what happened and felt a massive disappointment with that. (Unless I didn't read closely which would be my bad).Recommend to: * The story develops page after page so those in the mood for a lush, deep, rich story, not a riveting quick-paced romp. * Those looking for serious topics, but don't be too afraid - it's a pretty quick read.Thanks to NetGalley, Tin House books (W.W. Norton) and the author for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review and new appreciation for my (pretty) normal family.
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  • Julia Fierro
    February 2, 2017
    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.
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  • Ariana
    June 2, 2017
    Originally posted on: The Quirky Book Nerd*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*Pretend We Are Lovely is one of those novels that really makes you think—both during and after—but where the real impact of the plot and themes within it hits you a little while after you have turned the final page. After you’ve let it simmer in your mind for some time. This is a story that revolves around hunger and nourishment of both the body and soul. And behind the f Originally posted on: The Quirky Book Nerd*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*Pretend We Are Lovely is one of those novels that really makes you think—both during and after—but where the real impact of the plot and themes within it hits you a little while after you have turned the final page. After you’ve let it simmer in your mind for some time. This is a story that revolves around hunger and nourishment of both the body and soul. And behind the façade of food and hunger, starving and eating, the true needs of this family shine through the cracks. It is a perfect warm, summer day read, whose pages will fly by quickly, but will simultaneously strike the reader with the surprising depth and heaviness of the subject matter.This story follows a few months in the lives of the four members of the Sobel family. Mother Francie is struggling to deal with a great loss as well as the mental and emotional scars that come with it. Thirteen-year-old Vivvy and ten-year-old Enid are dealing with their own coming of age and new place in the world, all while attempting to cope with their struggling family life and their mother’s overbearing rules, primarily about food. Father Tate is trying his best to hold his family—and all of their lives—together as Franice begins to spiral out of control, further cracking the household’s foundation.I’ll admit when I first started, I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to end up enjoying this novel. It took me a little while to really get into it, but as soon as I did, I was fully captivated. This story is full of broken and lost, but deeply and utterly beautiful souls. They are surprisingly loveable and incredibly easy to connect with. Each one has their own distinctive voice and personality, and I found that they were very realistically portrayed. Reid demonstrated remarkable insight and skill in her creation of this fractured family.The element of food and hunger becomes very prominent as we begin to get to know each of the characters and the dynamic of the household. They all harbor a hunger for something more on an emotional level that masks itself in a battle with their eating or dieting behaviors. And these battles manifest uniquely in each person. Vivvy and Enid each look to a different parent for cues on how to treat food. Enid follows her father’s habits of carefree eating while Vivvy mimics her mother’s struggle with food and obsessive dieting.The relationships and constant instability of the foundation of this family was incredibly poignant. We watch Enid and Vivvy coming of age and learning to deal with many of the harsh realities of life. Francie and Tate are drifting further and further away from one another, and Tate is struggling to hold the family together as best he can for the sake of his daughters. Vivvy’s and Enid’s relationship with each other was my particular favorite to watch as it changes with the highs and lows of growing up. Tate’s love for his daughters was another one of my favorite aspects of this novel.The writing style used in this novel might not be a hit with everyone. The perspective alternates frequently between each of the four members of the Sobel family, so the reader gets an intimate look at everyone’s perspective on the events of the plot. I found it quite interesting to see the shift in the behaviors and outlooks of the all of the characters, but it can be a bit confusing at times. There is quite a bit of jumping about, and this can make the plot a little tricky to follow. However, once I started to get used to it and became more aware of each character’s personality, it flowed a lot smoother.The other aspect of the writing to note is the almost stream of consciousness-like style that Reid uses. For me personally, it really worked well and I enjoyed the tone that it set. It truly feels as if we as readers are intimately following the lives of a realistic family, and that brings so much depth into the novel and the messages it sends. However, I realize that, though it adds a great deal to the realism of the plot and characters, it can be somewhat of a difficult writing style to follow—so there are definite pros and cons to it for the reader. It reads just the way a person’s train of thought would go, but that can also make things feel a bit disjointed. On top of that, the constant shift in perspective takes a little while to get fully immersed in, especially prior to really knowing the family. As a whole though, I ended up loving the format in which Reid wrote this novel. There were a lot more pros that out-weighed many of the minor cons in the style, and she completely sucked me in. Overall, this was the big-hearted and consuming read it promised to be. Reid beautifully set the painful, destructive, yet loving atmosphere of a family in turmoil. I felt like I really connected with everyone, and found that I truly cared about each and every one of them. I experienced the hurt they both felt and inflicted, but also the small moments of caring, love and hope. Every emotion was tangible and I was completely wrapped up in their lives. The bittersweet final few chapters particularly stood out from the rest, and they are the ones that held onto me the longest.
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  • Jorie Mark
    July 23, 2017
    I found this book fascinating, deeply upsetting and thoughtful....the children in this novel are stuck between "feast and famine," between an indulgent, loving, pleasure-seeking dad and a mom who is all about denial, self-punishment and disgust with food, with imperfection, with mess. It was a novel about food and shame and body image, but also about much more than those things. The 80s feel was very authentic, and each of the characters had a distinct and true voice.
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  • Linda
    July 30, 2017
    Perfectly rendered characters!
  • Donna Foster
    April 22, 2017
    A family's experiences and struggles centered around food was like reading a ticking time bomb story.
  • paulie
    May 10, 2017
    (this was a goodreads arc giveaway. my thanks to tin house books and all involved, though this does not influence my review).i have not read such a painfully forlorn memoir masked in literary licensed fiction in forever, at least that's what i take away from this book. it doesn't take much sleuthing to find enid's name's origin.the profound conflict in overeating compounded with enid's mother's scathing commentary when she's not comatose makes for a heavy heart. the father (tate) with his own gl (this was a goodreads arc giveaway. my thanks to tin house books and all involved, though this does not influence my review).i have not read such a painfully forlorn memoir masked in literary licensed fiction in forever, at least that's what i take away from this book. it doesn't take much sleuthing to find enid's name's origin.the profound conflict in overeating compounded with enid's mother's scathing commentary when she's not comatose makes for a heavy heart. the father (tate) with his own gluttonous issues is semi-complex with his relationships with his shell of a wife (francie), his student (holly) and his two girls (yes, shell was specifically selected). francie, well, we never truly got to know francie, but what we do see is poignant to say the least. vivvy had the most self stability in the family (for a 12 yr old) which isn't saying much.the dynamic between the sisters is further conflicted with competing for the same boy's attention as well as each siding with a different parent, though they still have tender moments of solidarity and solace in their circumstances.i have a very strong feeling the vast majority of us will find slivers to slabs of ourselves in a character when it comes to an unhealthy relationship with food, but fewer will know the severe stronghold these pages contain.
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  • Deirdre Fagan
    July 29, 2017
    I am blown away by the aching beauty of this book. Noley Reid's Pretend We Are Lovely moves seamlessly from one character's voice to the next, father Tate, Mother Francie, and daughters Vivvy and Enid each speaking as the complex family story of all things ingested unfolds in small bites. The novel tells the story of the family's relationship to food and each other as they move towards and away from their own needs, desires, and responsibilities met and unmet. The difficulties of their lives are I am blown away by the aching beauty of this book. Noley Reid's Pretend We Are Lovely moves seamlessly from one character's voice to the next, father Tate, Mother Francie, and daughters Vivvy and Enid each speaking as the complex family story of all things ingested unfolds in small bites. The novel tells the story of the family's relationship to food and each other as they move towards and away from their own needs, desires, and responsibilities met and unmet. The difficulties of their lives are revealed through the simplest of actions: the ordering of donuts, the donning of a tennis outfit, the treats doled out to trick-or-treaters on Halloween.Reid is skilled in filling the plate and then taking things off and putting them on again, leaving so many chapters closing with a "wow" tension or moment. As the story builds to its close, there is dark humor, a kind of comic relief, in the perfectly timed denouement. I was left reflecting on the novel's brilliance in its tight structure, its details, its heartbreaking truths...and missing these characters I got to so deeply know. The book includes a note from Reid to readers where she wishes all find "our way to comfort and love...pretending we are lovely until we get there" just as we perpetually wish for the characters in this memorable and satisfying novel.Characters to miss. An author to watch. Loved this book!
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  • Jessica
    May 11, 2017
    Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid follows the Sobel family during the summer of 1982, seven years after the suspicious death of the only son of the family. Francie, Tate, and their daughters Enid (ten) and Vivvy (twelve) are grappling with their various hungers, literal and emotional. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of all four Sobels, each with their own secrets and burdens. Food is a central character, with each child mirroring the issues of one parent or the other. Franc Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid follows the Sobel family during the summer of 1982, seven years after the suspicious death of the only son of the family. Francie, Tate, and their daughters Enid (ten) and Vivvy (twelve) are grappling with their various hungers, literal and emotional. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of all four Sobels, each with their own secrets and burdens. Food is a central character, with each child mirroring the issues of one parent or the other. Francie and Tate’s marriage is in trouble, and Enid and Vivvy, facing the challenges of growing up, are often left to their own devices within a family barely holding on. When Francie suddenly disappears, the things they have all tried so hard to stuff down, hide, deny, and control, must be purged in order for the family to survive.This was a finely crafted story of a family, with characters that felt real. The author did a fantastic job of fleshing out all four characters; no easy feat when you are telling the story from multiple perspectives. I found myself identifying most with Enid and I felt like this was her story. However, I am sure that someone else might connect to it differently, which is the beauty of storytelling. This is the portrait of a family and all of the complex and dynamic experiences that go along with that. There is plenty of humor and warmth mixed in with the pathos and anxiety. The depiction of sisterhood was one of the best parts, and I loved the relationship between Enid and her dad. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It snuck up on me. At first I found the constant references to food distracting, but once I really got into the story, it began to weave in more seamlessly. I am a hater of the term “women’s fiction”, but I really think it would fit for this book. I believe women will make a stronger connection.Thank you to the publisher, Tin House for allowing me to read this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be released on July 18, 2017.
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  • Jen
    July 25, 2017
    A book about a family in crisis, two little girls growing up in a deeply dysfunctional household, where eating disorders and unhealthy relationships with food abound. I thought the family drama bits were good - it felt true in that way a good story can, when you're getting to the heart of why something is broken (in this case, an entire family). That said, I thought there was WAY too much emphasis on the eating disorders. While I was reading, I kept thinking, "This feels like the author is tryin A book about a family in crisis, two little girls growing up in a deeply dysfunctional household, where eating disorders and unhealthy relationships with food abound. I thought the family drama bits were good - it felt true in that way a good story can, when you're getting to the heart of why something is broken (in this case, an entire family). That said, I thought there was WAY too much emphasis on the eating disorders. While I was reading, I kept thinking, "This feels like the author is trying really hard to exorcise her own demons about food and eating." Lo and behold, at the end of the book there's a statement that basically says that's how she started writing the book. It's pretty heavy-handed, enough to be distracting to me...and I'm a fat woman who has struggled with eating and weight my whole life and is generally interested in that theme in books, so for me to say it felt heavy-handed and distracting is saying something. The writing is good; the focus just feels one-note.
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  • Diane Payne
    June 13, 2017
    When I first started reading, for no explainable reason, I simply sighed after realizing it was another book written in the voice of four main characters. After I started reading, the micro chapters made perfect sense. It was like reading four micro memoirs of family members struggling with the death of a young son and an unusual relationship to food. Throughout the book, I kept wondering if the death of the son was accidental or intentional, and even now I'm still not sure. After all the hints, When I first started reading, for no explainable reason, I simply sighed after realizing it was another book written in the voice of four main characters. After I started reading, the micro chapters made perfect sense. It was like reading four micro memoirs of family members struggling with the death of a young son and an unusual relationship to food. Throughout the book, I kept wondering if the death of the son was accidental or intentional, and even now I'm still not sure. After all the hints, I wonder if I was a lazy reader and simply missed the answer, or if readers were to never know the answer. I'm glad Holly didn't get her own chapters. To some degree, I rather wish she played less of a role in the novel. But, such is life.
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  • Diane Haney
    May 16, 2017
    Sweet, sad story of a family scarred by the questionable death of the youngest child, who was run over by his mother. The story is told by alternating narratives of the father, mother and two daughters ages 10 and 13 over the course of four or five months. Much is learned between the lines by what is not said. We come to realize the mother has deep emotional problems and perhaps has always had them. The family is disfunctional and each member is shown to respond to their situation with a type of Sweet, sad story of a family scarred by the questionable death of the youngest child, who was run over by his mother. The story is told by alternating narratives of the father, mother and two daughters ages 10 and 13 over the course of four or five months. Much is learned between the lines by what is not said. We come to realize the mother has deep emotional problems and perhaps has always had them. The family is disfunctional and each member is shown to respond to their situation with a type of eating or emotional disorder. All are seeking acceptance. The father desperately tries to hold the family together but is floundering. I found the treatment original, the characters believable and sympathetic.
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  • Julie Harms Cannon
    July 19, 2017
    A Story for Your Inner Child and Your Everyday LifeI am so grateful for this book! It spoke to so many periods of my life: the daughter I was, the wife and mother I became, and also my eating disorder recovery. The characters in this book lived and breathed as I moved through the story. I identified with nearly every one. I hated to say goodbye to Vivvy, Tate, Enid, and Francie. I wish them all peace, love, and light as they move on with their lives. I can imagine a happy ending as I now know th A Story for Your Inner Child and Your Everyday LifeI am so grateful for this book! It spoke to so many periods of my life: the daughter I was, the wife and mother I became, and also my eating disorder recovery. The characters in this book lived and breathed as I moved through the story. I identified with nearly every one. I hated to say goodbye to Vivvy, Tate, Enid, and Francie. I wish them all peace, love, and light as they move on with their lives. I can imagine a happy ending as I now know there is real hope for those with eating disorders and for their families as well. Thanks to Noley Reid for such an honest and hopeful work!
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  • Kat
    July 9, 2017
    This is in no way the easy read the cover or title seem to suggest. Some call it a coming of age story, but I felt it was more of a coming apart story. The books deals with many themes: budding sexuality, eating disorders, infidelity, loss of a child, mental illnesses, and inappropriate relationships. I found the characters hard to like, but interesting nonetheless. This is a family falling apart and no one will emerge unscathed.
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  • Krystle
    June 6, 2017
    Slow going and didn't grip me like other stories/books and I had to start and stop reading a few times. However, if you can make it through this book, you will end up reading a heartbreakingly sad story of a family going down hill.
  • Harriet Smith
    February 14, 2017
    Didn't keep my attention. Couldn't get further than page 47..
  • Ann Theis
    July 28, 2017
    Kirkus
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