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Autobiography of Us: A Novel

3.08  ·  Rating details ·  2,214 ratings  ·  306 reviews
A gripping debut novel about friendship, loss and love; a confession of what passed between two women who met as girls in 1960s Pasadena, California

Coming of age in the patrician neighborhood of Pasadena, California during the 1960s, Rebecca Madden and her beautiful, reckless friend Alex dream of lives beyond their mothers' narrow expectations. Their struggle t
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 28th 2014 by Picador (first published February 5th 2013)
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Average rating 3.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,214 ratings  ·  306 reviews

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Sarah Bigelow
This book is marketed as a novel about friends, and while a somewhat miss-matched friendship provides an umbrella context for the plot, it's not really about friendship. This is a novel about mothers and their children, or more specifically, mothers and their daughters. However, Aria Beth Sloss doesn't really seem to know that. In fact, Aria Beth Sloss doesn't seem to really know what she's writing about at all.

Because is Autobiography of Us really about friendship or motherhood at all? Or is t
(Lonestarlibrarian) Keddy Ann Outlaw
This is one of the most depressing books I ever read. Teenaged Alex Carrington, a luminous beauty and talented aspring actress, picks rather mousy, shy Rebecca Madden as a best friend when she first bursts onto their L.A. high school scene in 1958. From then on, Rebecca is forever in Alex's thrall. Masochistic is the only word I could think of for this relationship, for rarely could I see what drew Rebecca to Alex. Rebecca's mother is a frustrated, nervous woman, trying to live out her life thro ...more
Apr 22, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was excited to read this book as I thought the title and synopsis sounded wonderful, the story of two girls and their lasting friendship. However, it fell really flat for me. I never felt like Alex and Rebecca, the main characters, were all that close. I never felt a real, sincere, long lasting bond from them and I wasn't ever really sure why they even spent time together. As for the supporting characters, they were even more lackluster. Undeveloped and boring. Actually, everyone in the book i ...more
Book Concierge
Rebecca Madden and Alexandra Carrington meet in homeroom their freshman year of high school. Beautiful and vivacious Alex had just moved to Pasadena from Texas. Shy and studious Becky was as surprised as anyone when Alex asked to sit with her at lunch, but from the moment they met they were best friends. We found each other like two animals recognizing a similar species: noses raised, sniffing, alert.

The novel is told by an older Rebecca, relating her youth to her daughter. It’s a coming-of-age novel
Oh how I loved this book. I absolutely gobbled it up, lived inside it. I don’t think it’s for everyone. I can’t even explain who wouldn’t like it; I can only see why others might not. This explores, in great depths, so many relationships. Friends (through different stages: childhood, college, motherhood), parent-child, husband-wife. And oh my gosh, how often do you read about a solid and strong father-daughter relationship? Almost never. Rebecca’s relationship with her father, and the ups and do ...more
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Patricia Williams
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another really good book about female friendship. A story of two best friends who grew up together, lost touch with each other in adulthood and kept coming back to each other over and over. The person telling the story is one of the women, telling the story to her child, who was the adopted baby of her friend. Very long and main part of the story, finding out how this happened. I read this book really quickly could not put it down and hope to read more by this author.
Diane S ☔
Feb 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I first started reading this, I could immediately tell it was well written but I also thought this was going to be another novel about female friendship. I was partly right but I also became totally meshed in the story of these two friends who met when they were fourteen but were so totally addicted. Take also the time period, the fifties and the sixties with everything happening in the world, the massive societal shifts, the riots after the death of Martin Luther King, the expectations imp ...more
Freesiab (Bookish Review)
3 stars because it was an easy to read story about coming of age and the writing was well done. 2 stars on everything else. There was no real connection to this friend. It passed over these really big life issues that could have made it a great feminist work. The ending, a cop out?
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an incredible debut novel!

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of "Autobiography of Us" through a Goodreads giveaway. When I say "lucky", that is not an exaggeration. I feel privileged to have read this book! The moment I turned the last page, just a few minutes ago, I wanted to flip back tot he beginning and start it all over again.

It's often said that the key to a good novel is character, that the reader should be able to identify and empathize with the de
Heather Platisha
Another first time novelist added to the list.

I am a sucker for stories about best friends, friendships lost as well as California in the 50s and 60s, so I had a lot of hope for this book. Similar to other reviewers I was left wanting to understand more about our main characters, Rebecca and Alex. Funny, Sloss wrote these girls similar to the main characters in Beaches, which I would have been okay with if I was able to get to know them better. Another thing I couldn't quite get a hold on was t
Mar 01, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What a great premise for a book - what a great twist! But over and over this book does not deliver. I finished it wondering if I'd read it too quickly and missed important things, but a scan back indicated that no, I'd caught it all. It was the author who'd neglected to tell us important things, to flesh out the backstory, the whys, the motivations. There was so much going on in this book - tension between the women, tension between the women and their mothers, tension due to the Vietnam War, te ...more
Feb 13, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-recommended
Rarely if ever do I not finish a novel. I don't think I can finish this one. I can't relate to the characters because not enough time is spent developing who they are and why Rebecca and Alex are even friends. I am a little over half way done and the book gets more and more depressing, including the relationships. Events occur too quickly without getting to know the characters well enough to process the decisions. It feels as though the author left out much of the character development. Even the ...more
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't get past the fact that every character in this book talks like someone in a bad B movie drama set in the 40s. Teenagers, parents, teachers, everyone. I don't have the book with me anymore, but it sounds like this: "Darling girl, heaven forbid that you ever wear even a trace of lipstick! Why, when I was young, I wouldn't leave the house without looking my best." "Mother, you know that makeup and I are sworn enemies!" "Ladies, ladies, what is all this bickering! A man's home is his cast ...more
Doreen Ashbrook
I starated out liking this book, but by the time I got part way through, I disliked all of the characters. This book was a total downer. I would not recommend it.
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
(2.5 stars) The book description had promise -- that of two friends who meet in childhood in the 1960's & continue on to lead somewhat separate lives in an era of change. But there was just so much that was disappointing about this novel. The characters were not especially likeable. There was very little plot development up to the supposed climax of the novel, which hit fairly early on in the story. The various "episodes" of the story seemed oddly random, and I often would pick up reading, f ...more
Talya Boerner
This coming-of-age story of two girls told in flashback is the tale of a “wannabe” friendship spanning junior high into young motherhood. The book cover made me think the story would be more lighthearted than it turned out to be. Alex is wild, larger than life. Rebecca, the studious one, wants to emulate her. Set during the 50s-70s, there’s angst and growing pains and social issues aplenty. I loved the setting and the friendship theme, but the story left me a feeling a bit down in the dumps. I t ...more
Linda Robinson
The new girl in class radiates self-confidence, and for homeroom 14 year olds, that alone makes her a Person of Interest to avoid. Cut to schoolyard, midday. The new girl chooses the narrator as her BFF. We have no idea what motivates this approach. Alex is set up to be the wild girl; Rebecca the studious girl. As the girls grow, have a senior summer of scary grown-up world-approaching mayhem, we pack our bags and drive a couple miles to college. Then adulthood, or those years normally referred ...more
Novel set in Pasadena and New York (the ‘Pollyanna’ of Pasadena)

Rebecca in her mid teens has high expectations of her life. She has ambition, drive and commitment to carving out a career for herself, in an era where women rarely went beyond housewife or secretary. This is Mad Men country mid 20th Century.

Since the age of 14 she has had a good friend Alex, from the richer side of town, who is a foil to Rebecca’s bookishness, a shining light on the stage, and a beauty to bo
Priscilla Melchior
“Autobiography of Us” is the coming-of-age story of a pair of California girls, Rebecca and Alex, who became friends when 14 years old. Beginning with the day in of their meeting the early 1960s, Rebecca takes us through their school and college years, then beyond, to adulthood.

It’s a rocky relationship, because Alex is no ordinary teen. She’s artistic, with dreams of stage and screen; she is dramatic and equally bold. For the lonely Rebecca, Alex’s personality is equally magnetic an
Ferdinand E.
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel was marketed as a story about friends. I picked it up because the bathing suits, hair styles and sunglasses on the cover reminded me of "Mad Men."

So if you're not a "Mad Men" or "The Help" fanatic who can't get enough of how men and women operated in the 50's and 60's, you may find my review unhelpful.

But if you are, I think the book has more strengths than weaknesses. The story picks up in the latter half of the 50's, when two pre-teen girls become friends. On
I'm not sure what to say about this book. Perhaps it's the marketing's complete misunderstanding of the book, but I felt like I got something very different than what I was set up to get. This isn't to say that this was a bad book. It's touted as an emotional story between two femal lifelong friends. In reality, it's a more intellectual book about the gilded cage that women were placed in during the 1960s and 70s--particularly upper-middle-class women.

Both Alex and Rebecca are young women who t
Jul 05, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall I didn't really like this book. I do think it was well written. But I didn't like the characters--Alex especially. Why would Rebecca have stayed friends with her? She wasn't nice at all. All she did was take from the relationship.

I guess the book was more about feminism than anything else. Two girls with such high hopes for their futures in 1965 but were held back by "the man" and the times. Then they totally fell apart!

Spoiler alert:
Personally, I think the whole lesbian thread w
Dec 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book both engaging and frustrating. The storyline drew me in for sure: two girls growing up in the culture of the 1950's form an unlikely friendship. Rebecca, quiet and studious, falls in love with science and becomes bent on breaking through gender roles to enter medical school; Alex, cynical and carefree, having lived a life of privilege, pursues her dream of stage acting. Neither succeeds in following her calling.

My first disappointment was in how Sloss brought and held this fri
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am giving this book two stars because even though I think it missed the boat, it was pretty well written.
The premise, a friendship beginning in the late 1950s, drew me in. But all I've got to say is: gee, thanks, Ms Sloss, could you have painted a bleaker picture of these two? Alex is so obnoxiously full of herself it was impossible for me to find any empathy for her. Rebecca is a a cloying, meek, self effacing lamb.
These two are doomed. Born into a social milieu with clearly defined fe
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Review first published on my blog:

The "Us" are Alex and Rebecca. They meet in 1958 as girls, and instantly forge a friendship. The Autobiography of Us is the story of that relationship within the cultural context of the 1960s as Alex and Rebecca grow up and attempt to find their own way within the confines of family and cultural expectations.

The description had all the makings of a good story - young women at a fascinating point in history, friendships we can relate to, exp
Jun 02, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The narrator of this novel is recording the story of her life for her daughter. The arc of the story runs from high school in Pasadena in 1958 to young motherhood in New York in the mid 1970s. The theme that seems to connect the characters is the deleterious impact of dead dreams and shallow lives on the financially comfortable women of that era. This seems to want to explore the relationships between women. But, rather than the portrait of mutually supportive friendship, we are given mother-dau ...more
Ampersand Inc.
I was expecting a novel about women and friendship and while the novel included that it is much more. It is also exploration of cultural expectations and the constraints placed on women growing up in the fifties and sixties. And, ultimately, it is a story of love. This book would be a wonderful book club pick as there is much to talk about including the author’s choice to have Rebecca tell the story. The way she has crafted the story leads the reader through a life and a defining relationship bu ...more
Feb 12, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting book about that generation of women, like my mother, who came of age just before the impact of the women's movement took effect. They were not quite of the 1950s, but really not of the 1960s, either and lived during a time of diminished expectations for women, yet able to see quite clearly what could have been, what almost was.

My biggest issue with this book is that the friendship between the two girls seems rather inexplicable and impressionistic. The writing
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Ladies & Literature: Autobiography of Us: Group read discussion 77 59 Jun 16, 2014 11:59AM  
Confused. 5 27 Jun 01, 2014 04:41PM  

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Aria Beth Sloss is a graduate of Yale University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She is a recipient of fellowships from the Iowa Arts Foundation, the Yaddo Corporation, and the Vermont Studio Center, and her writing has appeared in Glimmer Train, the Harvard Review, and online at The Paris Review and FiveChapters. She lives in New York City.
“How little we know the ones we love. How little we know of anyone, in the end.” 4 likes
“Even now, I could no more chart her influence than I could the gravitational powers that rule the tides. I suppose that could be said of anyone we love, that their effects on our lives run so deeply, with such grave force, we hardly know what they mean until they are gone.” 4 likes
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