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Rich and Pretty

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This irresistible debut, set in contemporary New York, provides a sharp, insightful look into how the relationship between two best friends changes when they are no longer coming of age but learning how to live adult lives.

As close as sisters for twenty years, Sarah and Lauren have been together through high school and college, first jobs and first loves, the uncertainties of their twenties and the realities of their thirties.

Sarah, the only child of a prominent intellectual and a socialite, works at a charity and is methodically planning her wedding. Lauren—beautiful, independent, and unpredictable—is single and working in publishing, deflecting her parents’ worries and questions about her life and future by trying not to think about it herself. Each woman envies—and is horrified by—particular aspects of the other’s life, topics of conversation they avoid with masterful linguistic pirouettes.

Once, Sarah and Lauren were inseparable; for a long a time now, they’ve been apart. Can two women who rarely see one other, selectively share secrets, and lead different lives still call themselves best friends? Is it their abiding connection—or just force of habit—that keeps them together?

With impeccable style, biting humor, and a keen sense of detail, Rumaan Alam deftly explores how the attachments we form in childhood shift as we adapt to our adult lives—and how the bonds of friendship endure, even when our paths diverge.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published June 7, 2016

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About the author

Rumaan Alam

9 books1,444 followers
I'm the author of the novels Rich and Pretty, That Kind of Mother, and Leave the World Behind.

My short fiction has appeared in StoryQuarterly, Crazyhorse, Meridian, and elsewhere. I've also written for the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, and the New Republic. I studied writing at Oberlin College. Now I live in New York with my husband and two kids.

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5 stars
586 (5%)
4 stars
1,749 (16%)
3 stars
3,934 (37%)
2 stars
3,015 (28%)
1 star
1,131 (10%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,195 reviews
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,902 reviews35.3k followers
July 18, 2016
I read an interview between author Edan Lepucki and Ruman Alam. I liked the interview.
So....with Edan's endorsement of "Rich and Pretty", (a story about a long time friendship between two women), I decided to read it.

It didn't take long for me to realize, "I'm not thinking highly of this novel" I actually began to laugh out loud in spots that were clearly not meant to be funny.
Many sentences and paragraphs felt awkward.
I'm thinking..."I wouldn't talk like this - for ANYTHING"! I'm 64 years old.... but honestly, I didn't talk or think like these women at 'any' age!

Many books are written about women friendships ... "Songs Without Words", by Ann Packer was one of my favorites. It never got the raving overall reviews, but I thought it was terrific. A few of my close woman friends loved it too.

Here's a question: since we have a MALE author wanting to write about a long term friendship... Why not write about 2 men? Maybe two straight men? Or maybe one could be gay... point is... we could us more books on male bonding...why not choose his own sex? I look for books about male friendships. I learn things...love to be included in on male bonding.
Did we need another book about 2 woman...which frankly isn't offering much of any plot?
A wonderful book about two men, by the way, ( a standout)....
is called "The Tennis Partner", by Abraham Verghese....a book I can't recommend high enough!!! --

But I won't recommend this book to any of my female friends. I don't have friends like these two women. My own daughters, 30 and 34, wouldn't enjoy it.

"Rich and Pretty", is my least favorite book I've read all year. Lucky me, though, it's been an outstanding reading experience this year: ( so, I've little to complain about)

But....with "Rich and Pretty", It's not 'just' the story I don't like ... I actually don't care for the writing. I don't like the 'descriptions' the author often chooses. I kept reading because I was curious as to why the heck he chose things he did. Things just didn't feel right.

Here is a paragraph that makes my head swim: (so many things about it I don't like)

"Lauren's office is freezing. You could keep butter on the desk. You could perform surgery. Every woman in the office--they're all women--keeps a cashmere sweater on the back of her chair. They sit--outstretched over computer keyboards like a bum's
over flaming garbage cans. The usual office noises: typing, telephone, people using indoor voices, the double ding of an elevator going down. For some reason, the double
ding of the elevator going down is louder than the single ding of the elevator going up.
There's a metaphor in there, waiting to be untangled. They make cookbooks, these
women. There's no food, just stacks of paper and editorial assistants in glasses. She's worked here for four years. It's fine".


2 stars!
Profile Image for Lara.
307 reviews
March 25, 2016
I'm not a big fan of the way the author chose to write this. The fragmented sentences really bugged me. For the whole book. Fragmented statements. Not knowing who's talking. Very annoying. And no climax. No clear ending. I didn't understand the point.
Profile Image for Natasha.
181 reviews28 followers
April 10, 2016
This book gives you a glimpse into the lives of two best friends and how their relationship evolves as they get older. The author is a talented writer in that his descriptions made Sarah's house or the streets of New York come to life in my brain... yet this book was not my cup of tea. Not only does nothing really happen in this book - no plot, no climax, nothing to keep you turning the pages - but none of the characters are particularly likable, so I wasn't even invested enough that I wanted to know what happened to them. The book ended and it was as if the author was just like "I don't know what to write anymore, I'll just stop right here." - yet I wasn't mad about it because I was just glad it's over.

A sincere thank you to Ecco Books/Harper Collins for the ARC.
160 reviews
July 6, 2016
300 pages of mansplaining "female friendships" without developing plot or even the ~females~ in the friendships. Or even being clear about switching perspectives, which I guess could have been intentional but with how flat the characters fell, it didn't really work. I mean it's not altogether unpleasant I just really have no idea what I just read.
Profile Image for Britany.
950 reviews413 followers
June 8, 2018
I was hesitant to add this one after so many terrible reviews, but all my book sources kept telling me to add it-- I had to read it. READ IT, I did.

This book was tragically awful. I still don't understand what prompted the author to write this, or to formulate an outline for this novel. The book is about two dysfunctional friends that were close in college and have grown up, going down different paths-- can they relate? Of COURSE not! Come on-- people have different lives to lead and sometimes you can't always connect to that bestie you had holding your hair back after a night of underage binge drinking. The biggest problem I had throughout this book was how utterly bored I was. Who cares about these two women? Who cares about the small idiosyncrasies of their lives. Mundane, droll and uninteresting does not lead to main characters that the reader wants to hear about.

The author also tended to be pretty crass with the writing at times (which normally, I'm all for-- ) but in this case, it didn't lend to the characters because those notes stood out in stark contrast to everything else going on.

I have his newest book on my TBR (because I cannot help myself) and I'm wondering if I should remove it or give it a try at some point in the very far future. If this book is on your TBR, do yourself a favor and remove it.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,411 reviews7,409 followers
April 29, 2021
“Do you really think life is always happening to us?”

“I do.”

I finally stumbled over to this book’s Goodreads page to mark it as “Currently Reading” when I was at about the halfway mark and was shocked to see the dismal 2.77 rating. For a second I thought maybe my new best friend had participated in a showing of his butt sort of moment and trolled a reviewer or something. But then I realized that yeah, this won’t be for everyone. Basically it’s a literary version of . . . .

You know, ‘cause it’s pretty much about nothing????

The story here is about Sarah and Lauren who met when they were pre-teens and have been besties for the resties ever since. Sarah is the “rich” and Lauren is the “pretty.” Sarah works for a charity, has been with Dan since college and is planning her wedding when the book begins. Lauren works in publishing, has had a revolving door of pseudo serious boyfriends and will serve as the maid of honor. The story meanders through the mundane and monumental moments of these two women’s lives as they grow apart and yet somehow still remain bonded. And my reaction????

After reading Leave the World Behind I was hopeful that when it came to Rumaan Alam my response to his work would most likely fall along the lines of . . . .

I am so happy to report that was the case. I loved this book. I love this author’s delivery. I loved that he proved the old adage wrong that a man can’t write believable females who aren’t all broken and effed up or unreliable narrators or what have you. I loved their friendship and how authentic the ebbs and flows felt as they grew older and their lives changed. I love that he obviously has a personal love for New York and makes the reader love it too. I just loved it. And I will follow him. Follow him whatever he may write.
Profile Image for Julie.
961 reviews4 followers
June 17, 2016
I am curious about but can't remember where I read a review about this book, but that prompted me to read it. I found it a waste of time - I couldn't get into any of the characters, I keep waiting for a great insight into why the two female protagonists stayed friends - and never got any. I am irritated I kept reading even though I didn't like it.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,578 reviews1,978 followers
December 6, 2016
I waited a long time to read this book. Books about wealthy women in New York City are not my preferred genre and honestly I avoid them. (This takes effort, there are so many.) But the thing is, I have a very big weakness for well-written contemporary novels and this is definitely that. I read it in one day, breezed right through it like a Sunday brunch.

It isn't that I came to like Sarah or Lauren. Sarah in particular is the kind of person I loathe, someone who is so wrapped up in their own privileged life that they are oblivious to the world around them. Sarah is the kind of person who has no job but still considers herself busy and pats herself on the back for all the things she got done. Sarah is awful. And she never becomes not-awful. Reading the book is to constantly be confronted with her awfulness, sometimes to the extent that you know the author is just dangling it in front of you because he can. Lauren is less awful. She has a job, comes from humble beginnings, is more self-aware and aware of the world at large than Sarah. Lauren goes a long way to making the book bearable, and yet she is still the person, who on an Associate Editor's salary, buys a Balenciaga bag.

Sarah and Lauren do not get easier or more likable, it's just that Alam is so very good at what he does that I want to spend hours upon hours reading what he says. He is the kind of writer I am instantly jealous of because his book absolutely controls me and yet I have no idea what it is he did to make that happen and as a writer I would really like to know so I can steal his secret.

If you are looking for a book to binge on your day off, like I did, it's an excellent choice.
Profile Image for Marie.
143 reviews44 followers
September 24, 2016
A book written about a friendship between two women and how it changes, develops, pushes and pulls… by a man. Actually, he does a very good job portraying the intricacies of a female friendship. It is a book many would describe as a “summer read,” a book that doesn’t really go anywhere. Nothing extraordinary happens, but you feel the nuances of the friendship and relate to them. It is a friendship between two girls who met when they were 11 years old and the novel follows their friendship into their 30s. One of the girls is “rich” and the other is “pretty.” These adjectives don’t define them, but definitely play a role in who they are and who they become. The novel is a realistic look at how friendships look uneven at times and from many different angles, at how there are intrinsic and external factors that push and pull the friendship together and apart. It shows how beautiful a thing friendship is when it is long-lasting with so many shared experiences that make two people feel like siblings, even when the two people on the surface may seem so different.

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.
Profile Image for Chrissy.
51 reviews9 followers
June 21, 2016
Not terrible, but I couldn't allow myself to give this a full three stars. I got to the end, thought "so what?" and that was it. There was a lot of talk about growth and evolution but much felt like it was simply dwelling in the past. Meh.
Profile Image for Tyler Goodson.
171 reviews122 followers
February 18, 2016
Rich and Pretty reads like a romance between two friends, exploring the ups and downs that occur in any long friendship. Since they were eleven, Lauren and Sarah have been best friends, and now in their thirties, Sarah is getting married and their relationship will evolve once again. Alam gets the little things right, building and surveying their relationship perfect detail by perfect detail, including their lives and secrets separate from one another. By the end, we know these two women as individuals, as a unit, and feel lucky to have seen their friendship in all its iterations and, truly, its beauty.
Profile Image for Leah .
218 reviews3 followers
July 2, 2016
Truthfully couldn't get beyond the first several chapters. I had high hopes that this would be an "Upper East Side" version of "Firefly Lane" by Kristin Hannah, delving deep into friendship and the world of the elite. The characters Lauren & Sarah (at least 4 chapters in) were blithely shallow, lacking any sort of intriguing depth...and I can say the same about the plot. Massively disappointed
Profile Image for David.
649 reviews298 followers
October 19, 2016
Author Rumaan Alam is a homosexual writing about young female friendship being read by a hetero dad. This should not work. It reads like a Millennial version of the Neapolitan novels. God I’m not really selling this am I? But I enjoyed the read.

Sarah is the rich daughter of a Rumsfield-esque statesmen and is looking forward to getting married. Lauren is the pretty childhood friend who finds Sarah’s fiancé to be boring but is tasked with maid of honour duties including the getaway bachelorette.

Nothing really happens though. There’s no dead bridesmaid at the bachelorette, no last minute infidelities, dying parent, financial meltdown. It’s just the ups and downs of two lifelong female friends as they navigate those tiny things we all do with the friends we’ve developed a shorthand with. The knowledge of how arguments will grow and subside. The nostalgia of a friendship. At 20 remembering being excited 16 year olds. At 24 remembering being college freshmen. That relationship you really wished could have worked out for your friend.

And then seeing how it’s going to change yet again with one of you marrying. The inevitable kids, the changing priorities. It’s a quiet book filled with insightful tiny moments.
Profile Image for Edan.
Author 9 books33k followers
June 11, 2016
I blurbed this book!

“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)

Read my interview with Rumaan here:

197 reviews
August 13, 2016
Skip this one: Two NYC women, friends through school, don't have too much in common anymore, but they get together regularly, then indulge in inane, sometimes catty, inner dialogues about each other. Although the book covers six or seven years in their lives, the plot goes nowhere. (And I stuck through it to the end to make sure I didn't miss anything.)
Profile Image for Rincey.
786 reviews4,571 followers
September 17, 2016
This was a weird/unique reading experience.

I started off not feeling this book, the writing style was really not for me. But around the halfway point I found myself so enticed to pick it up between other tasks to check in with these two women.

I'm someone who has been friends with her best friend since middle school. She got married young, has two kids, while I haven't done any of those things. So there are parts of it that felt so familiar to me and I think that is what had me coming back for more when other books written in a similar style, taking place with similar characters would normally bother the crap out of me.
Profile Image for Macy Stewart.
3 reviews
December 7, 2016
I LOVED IT...until I got to the ending. It's not the popular opinion, but I found this book extremely relatable. I'm in my mid-twenties, and I enjoyed reading dialogue that sounds exactly like conversations my friends and I have had.

I really enjoyed the setup of the two main characters - two best friends who have spent 2/3 of their lives together, at the point in a friendship where all of their odd personality quirks are noticed, annoying, but accepted. While both Sarah and Lauren want the absolute best for each other, they can't help but be extremely critical of each other's life choices - from Lauren's lack of steady boyfriend to Sarah's marriage to someone Lauren feels is merely "adequate".

Their journey throughout the book was very well written for the characters, but I felt like it was wrapped up too quickly. The ending skips time, and then again, to show where the characters ended up and I felt that wrapping it up with Sarah's wedding/baby shower would have sufficed.
Profile Image for Pennie Larina.
508 reviews48 followers
February 27, 2021
Это очень неплохо и не без озарений написанная книга ни о чем. На первых страницах становится понятно, что это как Лилу и Лену, только одна богатая, а другая красивая. Ничего особенно нового к этому не прибавляется до конца книги.
Profile Image for Jenna.
3 reviews
July 22, 2016
I rarely dislike books as much as I disliked this one. It wasn't even that it was poorly written or trite (my usual reasons for disliking books). It was that *nothing* happened. Literally nothing happened in this book. It was simply the most mundane, meandering details about two boring and uninteresting women. Nothing in this book stood out as interesting or exciting. The language was pretty and interesting enough at times, but hardly enough to make up for three quarters of a page droning about making a spinach salad or sandwich for dinner and an entire book where nothing happens. If I described the details of my daily life, it would be this book. By the end, I was skipping over entire swaths of words, hoping to find something that actually happened, but nothing ever did. I was quite happy when this book finally ended, but honestly, there was quite literally no reason to read to the end.
Profile Image for Erin.
149 reviews
July 19, 2016
LOVED this book. Lauren and Sarah were delightfully flawed, Huck and Lulu were huge characters who didn't take over the story, Dan was ambivalently important, and Rumaan Alam created a world I readily dove in to and loved. The friendship between Lauren and Sarah was really well written and felt really real, like these characters were based on actual women with a complicated best friendship. The elements of setting, story, and character were brought together wonderfully and I could just keep reading and reading about this world. Big thumbs up!
Profile Image for Lisa DellAquila.
42 reviews4 followers
March 29, 2016
I received the ARC of Rich and Pretty from a friend. Initially, I was dubious I would like a book so diametrically opposed to my very being (not rich, not pretty). However, I was pleasantly surprised. The book details the friendship of Sarah and Lauren, two women in their thirties who live in New York City and have been best friends since adolescence. Rumaan Alam masterfully captures the complexities of female friendship. I enjoy interior novels that explore human interactions, but I suppose that some might find the plot wanting, because the book is more an illustration of a relationship than a novel full of plot twists. I also suspect that some readers might find Sarah and Lauren shallow, and in some ways, they are. Sarah is nominally employed and lives off a trust fund. Her father is a wealthy conservative pundit. She spends most of the novel planning her wedding. I can see how this might grate, but Sarah is ultimately likeable, if a bit prudish. However, I wish Alam had delved a little more into Sarah's character: for instance, we learn a bit about her troubled older brother, but we don't get a lot about the impact the brother had on Sarah's life. Sarah also seems a bit reticent, and though this is part of her character, we don't get to know her in the same way we get to know Lauren, a more fully drawn character. Lauren is proudly single and independent, rejects guys for no good reason other than she is tired of them/doesn't want to settle down, has abortions, is sexually free, etc. I suppose this might also bother folks, but in fact, I loved Lauren. I identified with putting behind a boring life in the suburbs and learning to relate to folks in another socioeconomic class. I did not identify with her beauty, but it helped to set up some of the conflict between Lauren and Sarah (who is apparently not as attractive). The scenes illustrating Lauren studying Sarah's wealthy family to learn their ways were so well done and rang entirely true to me. Also, Lauren's sex scenes were great -- they were realistic and didn't shy away from anything, but were not overblown or false or cutesy. Finally, even though I was initially put off by the title, the scene in which the title is explained is sharp, cruel and cutting. It puts a different spin on what I thought was meant to be breezy and frothy. Overall, Rich and Pretty is a engaging read, though I'd love to see Alam push his characters a step further in terms of emotional engagement.
Profile Image for Amy.
1,263 reviews36 followers
June 17, 2016
I imagine this assignment being given in a writing class somewhere: "Choose a topic you know nothing about, are not interested in at all, and have a mild disdain for. Now write a novel about it." Then this author says, "I'll take female friendships," and there you go.
Profile Image for Robyn.
827 reviews132 followers
June 12, 2016
2.5 that I'm rounding up since it was interesting enough to finish. I wanted a fun summer read; this ended up being more a series of character sketches strung together.
Profile Image for Leah Bayer.
567 reviews200 followers
December 14, 2020
Why yes, I am still reading books about pre-pandemic nyc so I can feel like my city is fully alive again, if just for a moment
Profile Image for Sarah.
217 reviews89 followers
July 21, 2016
This is the only book lacking a climax and juicy plot that I've actually enjoyed. I've seen many reviews by readers frustrated with the lack of action, and it's true, there's not a whole lot of substance there. This book was significant for me in that it explores the essence of human nature: how we come to understand what a person is thinking without them having to say it, how we know inherently when something is wrong, how we pick up on physical and verbal cues from the ones we are closest to that strangers would never notice. The author has done a great job of creating two totally believable characters with real desires, real faults, real selfishness, and real life problems. I am a huge believer in the idea of a book coming to you at the right time in your life. I personally lost several personal friends that I've known for years in the last couple of months. Some of them drifted away, others became different people with different priorities and different expectations of who their friends should be, some were just plain jerks I had been allowing to take advantage of me for years. Reading this book opened my eyes to something big: we are each of us our own person, unique and special. People can complement our lives, or they can complicate them. The same is true for ourselves. The trick is learning to evolve and accept change while understanding your needs and your personality. While I don't typically pick up works of contemporary fiction, I am glad I chose this book for my July 2016 Book of the Month club pick. It was insightful and interesting not only in its story but also in what it taught me about myself.
9,451 reviews83 followers
August 4, 2016
Over rated. Lauren and Sara were clearly written by someone who was on the outside of the female experience - like a man. To be very clear, many men have written successfully and delightfully about women but this didn't cut it. I really wanted to like this novel but I just couldn't enjoy these two, who I actually found tiresome. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC.
56 reviews1 follower
August 6, 2016
This exceeded my expectations. I thought it would be more plot driven and dramatic. I found myself happy to realize it wasn't because the loose structure made it feel all the more real. It's almost hard to believe Alam isn't a women writing a thinly veiled portrait of her own life. He has a way of perfectly capturing moments in this decades long friendship and adeptly getting under the skin of these two women. His pointed observations about their thought processes, feelings, intentions, and actions reminded me of myself and of other women I've had significant friendships even though I'm not in their socioeconomic strata. I didn't originally like the title but after reaching the brief anecdote that explains it, I can't imagine any other title being more well suited for these characters or this story.

What I most appreciate about this novel is the stark difference between Lauren and Sarah, how they drift apart but don't let go of each other. There's no blowup fight or turning point which I think accurately mirrors many real life friendships.

While Alam's writing did not have the gross tell tale signs of a man imposing his own idiotic views on femininity onto his female characters, I was keenly aware that this book was not written by a white person. My assumption is that Alam is not a part of the Lauren and Sarah social and economic world but has been adjacent because of his work or educational experiences. The fact that this is written from that point of view made it, in my opinion, all the more richer and nuanced. Come for beautifully written realism about female friendships, stay for the shade against white people and Joan Didion.
Profile Image for Sara Planz.
452 reviews24 followers
September 9, 2016
I thought it was a very accurate examination of the cycles of friendship that we all go through. There were parts of the book where I genuinely felt that Sarah and Lauren were simply maintaining the friendship out of loyalty or habit, but then there were times (i.e. Sarah's wedding, the birth of Henry) that you could see genuine love and friendship between them. In regards to the look at the friendship, I thought the book was spot on. I have heard other people question what they perceive to be a lack of plot or story line. However, I felt that Lauren's and Sarah's lives were the plot and the story line. It's our everyday ins and outs, comings and goings, arguments and apologies, that make up the stories of our lives. What left me wanting however was the ending of the book. Their story ends in a giant unknown after a huge gap in time between the birth of Henry and the upcoming arrival of Sarah's second son. Maybe I just wanted a happily ever after for Lauren too. In a lot of ways the ending mirrors the way friendships really can be. Long stretches of time apart, but when you see each other again, you can pick up like it was yesterday.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,195 reviews

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