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Rich and Pretty: A Novel Hardcover – June 7, 2016
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From the Publisher
Rumaan Alam Talks With Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney (CS): From the opening scene to the last scene, the dialogue between the two main characters, Sarah and Lauren, is absolutely pitch-perfect. Does dialogue come as easily to you as it seems? And if it does, please tell me your trick.
Rumaan Alam (RA): It's great to hear you find it engaging, because there certainly is a lot of dialogue in the book. This is mostly because I think talking is the foundation of Sarah and Lauren's intimacy. They meet when they're 11, and talking is what kids, pre-teens, teens, even young adults, do, mostly because they have so little power to do anything else.
There's this hackneyed but still effective advice that you should read aloud when you're revising; I definitely did that, and found it incredibly helpful. But then I sort of internalized that and found that when I was writing, I basically performed this dialogue; I said it aloud as I wrote, nixing certain words and phrases if they felt wrong coming out of my mouth. I found this an effective way to work, as well as an effective way to demonstrate to my husband that I am, in fact, insane.
CS: We both came to novel writing after doing different kinds of writing and I'm wondering what is your favorite—and least favorite— thing about writing fiction?
RA: Certainly for me the greatest thing about writing a book is that I have not been required, at any point, to have a conference call. I rather like being alone, and working at my own pace, and knocking off early to make lasagna for dinner, and not having to honor some old-fashioned notion that the workday is 9-5. It's a great job, a dream job. The writing of fiction can be a lonely business. One of the real challenges for me is that when I become preoccupied with some problem in my work, some snag in the plot or some complication with a character, it often has this specificity that makes it impossible to discuss with anyone. Complaining about imaginary people and scenarios sounds crazy! I sometimes half-discuss these things with my husband even so. I guess that shows that writing fiction is just a job like any other; it's part of a spouse's job to listen to you vent, even if they don't totally understand why you're frustrated.
CS: This book is about the course of friendship and the challenges that arise when lives start to diverge. Marriage and parenting are often catalysts for this kind of emotional inventory-taking, wondering if we're sustaining a relationship out of habit or obligation or if there is a real love worth nurturing. I'm wondering how and if marriage and parenthood has affected the friendships in your life.
RA: Sure: getting married and having kids has of necessity seen my social life get less active. But it's always something! You get serious about your career, you have to care for an unwell family member, you discover a passion for something like travel or making art that takes up your time, and you find that many things—friends you thought quite dear, the desire to go out to dinner every Friday night—falling away. It's ok, it's mostly natural, and because a friendship ends or changes doesn't mean it was meaningless or insignificant. The work of writing is very solitary, but the business of publishing isn't—one of the delights of publishing this book has been meeting other writers, as well as so many editors, agents, and other people in the book game. You actually never know when you'll meet someone whose friendship may really matter in your life.
From Publishers Weekly
Alam’s debut is a sweet yet cutting exploration of the bonds of friendship in competitive New York City. Sarah and Lauren have been best friends since high school, through college, love, jobs, and the realities of adult life. Lauren works as an associate editor for a publisher of cookbooks, is single, and pursues a carefree, on-the-go lifestyle that offers no prospect of settling down. Sarah, the daughter of a retired singer and a former advisor to the president, leads a charmed, career-free life. Recently engaged to pedestrian Dan, Sarah hopes the wedding will be a low-key affair but is anxious her socialite parents will keep that from happening. As a way to reconnect and keep her parents at bay, Sarah asks Lauren to be her maid of honor and help plan the wedding. Alam moves the story forward with seamless transitions from Sarah to Lauren’s voice, punctuated by scenes of biting dialogue; however, the interplay of voices never serves as an integral part of the plot, and rambling takes over in sections. In the run-up to the wedding, the closeness Sarah was hoping to reignite looks forever extinguished when Lauren misbehaves on a bachelorette trip. As Sarah’s life moves forward, will she come to realize that there is nothing wrong with growing up, even if that means growing apart from Lauren? With astute descriptions of how values, tastes, desires, and ambitions change over two decades, Alam’s tale of a divergent friendship smartly reflects the trial and error nature of finding a mate and deciding how to grow up. (June)\n
“Smart, sharp, and beautifully made, Rumaan Alam’s portrait of two childhood best friends transitioning into their adult lives is vividly rendered, set against a tantalizing background of moneyed New York City that is impossible to resist.” (Emma Straub, author of The Vacationers)
Deceptively easy to read, Rich and Pretty is a complex testimony to the resilience of female friendship. With clarity and heart, Rumaan Alam brings to life the fraught, bewildering and beautiful nuances that keep us reaching for each other over decades. (Mira Jacob, author of The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing)
“Engrossing, funny, and wise, Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam is the story of two young women growing up and growing out of their past selves, even as that past still, profoundly, matters. Its cleverness is surpassed only by its compassion. A marvelous debut.” (Edan Lepucki, author of California)
“Sharply observed and incredibly entertaining, Rich and Pretty tells the story of childhood friends struggling to hold onto their relationship as they grow up and grow apart. Rumaan Alam’s debut is one of the most honest portrayals of the complicated world of female friendship.” (Jennifer Close, author of Girls in White Dresses)
“Rich and Pretty is a beautifully written novel, a lushly detailed portrait of the mores and manners of contemporary Manhattan and a penetrating look into the heart of the generation now facing their thirties... wickedly witty, keenly insightful, and deeply, compassionately wise. (Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply)
“[G]orgeous prose, by turns hilariously funny and painfully perceptive... With careful attention to the ways social class and mores shape relationships, Alam gives us insight into both his characters and ourselves.” (J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Maine)
“This novel astutely and honestly captures all of those feelings we all have but can’t quite articulate during our twenties and thirties, especially with regard to our friends.” (Bustle)
“A sweet yet cutting exploration of the bonds of friendship... With astute descriptions of how values, tastes, desires, and ambitions change over two decades, Alam’s tale of a divergent friendship smartly reflects the trial and error nature of finding a mate and deciding how to grow up.” (Publishers Weekly)
“[Alam] displays a robust understanding of and affection for the nuances of female friendships as they evolve over time... captures something truthful and essential about the push-pull of friendship.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Alternating between the women’s points of view, Alam provides intimate insight into each one’s thoughts, feelings, and memories… Perfectly capturing a changing yet resilient friendship, this debut novel full of warmth and humor will appeal to anyone who has experienced a similar bond.” (Library Journal)
“Rich and Pretty...feels fresh and true in a way that few other books on the topic have managed.” (Lenny Letter)
“[A] smart, enticing novel” (Miami Herald)
“Rumaan Alam transforms a whimsical beach read into compelling literary prose…Rich and Pretty is a realistic look at female friendship.” (Associated Press)
“[A]n honest and funny look at female friendships, set against the background of Manhattan’s elite aristocracy (think Gossip Girl 15 years later).” (PureWow)
“Written with humor and an impeccable ear for girlfriendly conversation--by a man, no less!--Rich and Pretty is a sparkling debut.” (People)
“the perfect summer read... pitch perfect and wise” (Elle)
“Female friendships are complicated. But somehow Rumaan Alam--a man--nails the tension, envy and intense love in this irresistible debut.” (Metro, The buzziest books of summer)
This one’s “Gossip Girl” with a grown up twist. About two NYC women who’ve been this-close all their lives, but are moving in different directions. You’ll get all the feels. And then text your BFF. (The Skimm)
“Rumaan Alam beautifully frames the nuances of female friendship: that complex alchemy of expectations and envy, and how they chafe with a lingering deep affection for each other.” (Elle)
“Rumaan Alam creates characters who are grappling with their adult identities while securing their childhood bond.” (Wall Street Journal)
Top customer reviews
I feel like there is a whole class of books like this, some with much more depth than others. This felt light and fluffy, leaving me wishing for more from the book.
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It felt like it was written for me and this particular moment in my life. I'm marginally younger than the protagonists but very much in the same phase of life, where I am struggling with my life diverging from my best friends that I have known and loved for years. We used to be on the same page and now we are not.
Our friendships are shifting and it can be a bittersweet experience, one I think that the author captured perfectly. It is somewhat painful to realize that things you thought you had in common you do not. That you don't share a heart and mind and vision of the future, like it may have once seemed. You can judge each other harshly for this. I'm searching now for that depth of love in these friendships to pull us through this time. And I believe it will like it ultimately does in this story.
The characters were real and complex. The story had a slow but consistent pace and was not overly dramatic or melodramatic. It was like a sliver of real life.
Would I recommend it? I told my best friend that she should read it because in many ways it reflects our story of 30+ years of friendship well.
That in and of itself might recommend the book as a valuable read to others but even so it's not one I would place high on a need to read list.