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Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam
Contemporary fiction

Rich and Pretty

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Rumaan Alam, on your first book!

by Rumaan Alam

Quick take

My favorite kind of book: the story of a female friendship, which means, of course, that it is a love story.

Why I love it

Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

Rich and Pretty is one of my favorite kinds of books: the story of a female friendship, which means, of course, that it is a love story. Friends are our first loves— the first time we get to say to another person, "I choose you." The first time we feel ourselves chosen. It's such a rush, that recognition, the thrill of a kindred spirit. No wonder our early friendships imprint so strongly: the blurred boundaries, the shared history, the intimacy and neediness that can be both intoxicating and stifling. But, oh, the burden of choice! Because what to do when lives start to diverge and it might be time to unchoose?

Sarah and Lauren, the main characters in this book, have been friends since they were teens. In their early thirties now, they are both convinced the other is navigating adulthood in New York City in all the wrong ways and, as a result, their friendship has suffered. "Like sisters!" everyone has said of these two, except they're not like sisters in one critical way. Unlike sisters, they can choose to uncouple without having to worry about the inevitable holiday gatherings or family command performances. They can continue to neglect their friendship until it's a husk of its former self, or until they drift so far apart they are no longer in each other's sights. Will they? Won't they?

What makes this book such a great read is how Rumaan Alam excavates the interior lives of these women with wit and compassion and an extraordinary eye for the defining details of their individual—and shared—worlds. Not to mention his downright uncanny ear for how friends communicate: what's spoken versus what's implied, the comforting shorthand, the facile barb, the easy affection.

I have exactly zero science to back this up, but I believe-anecdotally and in my gut-that women spend more time pining over (and Googling and Facebook stalking) ex-friends than ex-lovers. (Just me?) It's painful to lose people, but sometimes it's more painful to hold on. That Rich and Pretty addresses the struggles of friendship and adulthood in such a winning way makes this debut novel one of my favorite books of the year so far, and I can't wait to see what Alam does next.

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