These Girls

These Girls

4.3 39
by Sarah Pekkanen
     
 

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In her third novel, internationally bestselling author Sarah Pekkanen examines the lives of three women working and living together in New York City and shows that family secrets may shape us all, but it’s the rich, complicated layers of friendship that can save us.

Family secrets may shape us all, but it’s the rich, complicated layers of

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Overview

In her third novel, internationally bestselling author Sarah Pekkanen examines the lives of three women working and living together in New York City and shows that family secrets may shape us all, but it’s the rich, complicated layers of friendship that can save us.

Family secrets may shape us all, but it’s the rich, complicated layers of friendship that can save us.

Cate, Renee, and Abby have come to New York for very different reasons, and in a bustling city of millions, they are linked together through circumstance and chance.

Cate has just been named the features editor of Gloss, a high-end lifestyle magazine. It’s a professional coup, but her new job comes with more complications than Cate ever anticipated.

Her roommate Renee will do anything to nab the plum job of beauty editor at Gloss. But snide comments about Renee’s weight send her into an emotional tailspin. Soon she is taking black market diet pills—despite the racing heartbeat and trembling hands that signal she’s heading for real danger.

Then there’s Abby, whom they take in as a third roommate. Once a joyful graduate student working as a nanny part time, she abruptly fled a seemingly happy life in the D.C. suburbs. No one knows what shattered Abby—or why she left everything she once loved behind.

Pekkanen’s most compelling, true-to-life novel yet tells the story of three very different women as they navigate the complications of careers and love—and find the lifeline they need in each other.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Pekkanen (Skipping a Beat) follows three girlfriends in her pedestrian third novel. Though they’ve been co-workers at Gloss magazine for several years and roommates for six months, Cate and Renee are only casual friends, until a new roommate cements their friendship. Cate, recently promoted to features editor, is struggling to assert her new authority amid office gossip about just how she got her promotion. She’s also harboring a secret: she left college without graduating because of an embarrassing indiscretion. Renee’s up for a promotion herself, and she’s willing to take extreme measures to lose weight in order to fit into fashion-magazine acceptable. When Renee and Cate’s dashingly handsome colleague, Trey, “a six-foot-three, single, straight, employed man... more coveted and rare in New York City than a rent-controlled one-bedroom,” needs a place for his younger sister, Abby, the girls are happy to let her use their spare room. They’re both nursing crushes on Trey, but they also take an instant liking to Abby and the solid friendships they form help Abby move past her own dark secrets. Pekkanen’s got wit and an ear for dialogue, but missed opportunities for conflict keep the story flat and the characters from evolving. Agent: Victoria Sanders, Victoria Sanders & Associates. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"Sarah Pekkanen's latest celebrates the healing power of female friendship for three very different young women sharing a New York City apartment. At turns bittersweet, laugh-out-loud funny, and painfully real, you'll wish you could move in with these girls." —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Lone Wolf and Sing You Home

“The honesty and complexity that Sarah Pekkanen brings to her three main characters in These Girls is impressive and rare. You can't help but root for each one of them as they struggle to strike that elusive balance between professional success and personal happiness. The bonds among Pekkamen's female heroines will have you reaching for the phone to hold your own best girlfriends a little closer.” –Nicolle Wallace, New York Times bestselling author of Eighteen Acres

"In These Girls, Sarah Pekkanen again proves her innate understanding of women's relationships. With a style that's both wry and heartfelt, readers will absolutely recognize themselves and their friendships on the pages. These Girls is lively and engaging and ultimately satisfying, so get comfortable because you won't be able to put it down!" –Jen Lancaster, author of Bitter Is the New Black

"A fun and engaging romp...Pekkanen's authorial voice is sweetly snappy, the plot is character-driven, and the book ends satisfactorily without tying up every loose end. Fans of Sophie Kinsella and Jennifer Close will enjoy this refreshingly introspective, sharply realistic, and tenderly humorous novel." —Booklist

"Pekkanen’s characters are sympathetic and familiar, and readers are likely to identify with aspects of each protagonist. Fans of Jennifer Weiner, Sarah Dessen, Liza Palmer, and Emily Giffin will strongly appreciate this smart novel by a rising star in women’s fiction." —Library Journal

"Good fun....an entertaining take on modern love and life in the Big Apple." —Kirkus

"Chick lit with grit." —Ladies Home Journal

"The power of friends and family carries this fast-paced novel through to a satisfying, although somewhat surprising conclusion. If you like chick lit with substance, Pekkanen delivers another winner." —Philly Examiner

“Sarah Pekkanen deftly weaves together the lives of roommates and friends…each battling demons, professional and otherwise, and within a few pages you’ll find yourself emotionally invested in all of them. The surprisingly good news is that this author knows that ‘happily ever after’ doesn’t necessarily involve a cute guy.” —Entertainment Weekly

"A pleasure." —People

“Pekkanen offers a conversational writing style and a knack for making readers care about her characters… a refreshing look at the importance of female friendship.” —Washington Post

"I loved Sarah Pekkanen’s These Girls. Just when you think the single-girls-trying-to-make-it-in-media-in-NYC trope was totally played out, along comes a fresh, charming, moving take on what it’s like to be in your twenties, desperate for the guy to like you, for your secrets to stay secret, for this diet to be the one that works." —Jennifer Weiner, EW.com

Library Journal
Pekkanen's third novel (after The Opposite of Me and Skipping a Beat) offers an engrossing look into the lives of three young women, each struggling with a personal crisis. Renee, a magazine staffer looking to score a new position at a beauty magazine, is forced into a competitive situation with other hopefuls while wrestling with her own body issues. Cate is adjusting to her promotion to features editor as she tries to cope with the authority issues raised by a staff she's new to supervising. And Abby is a graduate student, fleeing a nanny position and a different town. The three stories are woven together well, and while each of these women is carrying a secret, Renee's and Cate's secrets are told to the reader in the beginning of their narratives, while Abby's is revealed, quite satisfactorily, in a series of flashbacks. VERDICT Because Pekkanen's characters are sympathetic and familiar, readers are likely to identify with aspects of each protagonist. Fans of Jennifer Weiner, Sarah Dessen, Liza Palmer, and Emily Giffin will strongly appreciate this smart novel by a rising star in women's fiction.—Amy Watts, Univ. of Georgia Lib., Athens
Kirkus Reviews
Pekkanen's (Skipping a Beat, 2011, etc.) latest showcases her penchant for exploring relationships wrapped in big-city trappings. Cate, the features editor for a big-time New York–based women's magazine called Gloss, and Renee, an associate editor at the same publication, share an apartment the size of a postage stamp with oft-absent model Naomi. When Naomi ditches the pair, hunky writer Trey asks if his seriously damaged younger sister, Abby, can move into Naomi's room while he's on the road. Trey, who picks up National Magazine Awards as casually as after-dinner mints, happens to be the hottest thing around, both professionally and as dating material. Renee had an awkward couple of dates with Trey and nurses the hope that she will one day win him over. In the meantime, she's trying hard to win the position of beauty editor at Gloss but is pitted against two others for the promotion. Determined to bag the job, Renee starts taking the diet pills that Naomi left behind in an attempt to lose weight, while Cate struggles with trying to prove her mettle in the magazine business to a lecherous and demanding boss. All three women harbor secrets that could bring them public humiliation and/or turn their worlds upside down, and Pekkanen's story traces the ways in which the three work toward making themselves whole while forging a friendship that will outlast disappointments in life and love. A bit heavy on clichés and coincidences, this is a breezy but uninvolving read that revolves around an industry rife with job insecurity. Pekkanen peppers the book with celebrity names and pop-culture references and loads down her prose with unnecessarily detailed descriptions of the characters' hair, clothes and makeup, but she redeems herself with an unexpected ending. Good fun overall, though the speed at which the female characters bond rings false. An entertaining but not very memorable take on modern love and life in the Big Apple.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781451612547
Publisher:
Washington Square Press
Publication date:
04/10/2012
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
325
Sales rank:
368,881
Product dimensions:
5.38(w) x 8.08(h) x 0.87(d)

Read an Excerpt

One

When my husband, Michael, died for the first time, I was walking across a freshly waxed marble floor in three-inch Stuart Weitzman heels, balancing a tray of cupcakes in my shaking hands.

Shaking because I’d overdosed on sugar—someone had to heroically step up and taste-test the cupcakes, after all—and not because I was worried about slipping and dropping the tray, even though these weren’t your run-of-the-mill Betty Crock­ers. These were molten chocolate and cayenne-pepper master­pieces, and each one was topped with a name scripted in edible gold leaf.

Decadent cupcakes as place cards for the round tables encir­cling the ballroom—it was the kind of touch that kept me in brisk business as a party planner. Tonight, we’d raise half a mil­lion for the Washington, D.C., opera Company. Maybe more, if the waiters kept topping off those wine and champagne glasses like I’d instructed them.

“Julia!”

I carefully set down the tray, then spun around to see the fret­ful face of the assistant florist who’d called my name.

“The caterer wants to lower our centerpieces,” he wailed, agony practically oozing from his pores. I didn’t blame him. His boss, the head florist—a gruff little woman with more than a hint of a mustache—secretly scared me, too.

“No one touches the flowers,” I said, trying to sound as tough as Clint Eastwood would, should he ever become ensconced in a brawl over the proper length of calla lilies.

My cell phone rang and I reached for it, absently glancing at the caller ID. It was my husband, Michael. He’d texted me earlier to announce he was going on a business trip and would miss the birthday dinner my best friend was throwing for me later in the month. If Michael had a long-term mistress, it might be easier to compete, but his company gyrated and beckoned in his mind more enticingly than any strategically oiled Victoria’s secret model. I’d long ago resigned myself to the fact that work had replaced me as Michael’s true love. I ignored the call and dropped the phone back into my pocket.

Later, of course, I’d realize it wasn’t Michael phoning but his personal assistant, Kate. By then, my husband had stood up from the head of the table in his company’s boardroom, opened his mouth to speak, and crashed to the carpeted floor. All in the same amount of time it took me to walk across a ballroom floor just a few miles away.

The assistant florist raced off and was instantly replaced by a white-haired, grandfatherly looking security guard from the little Jewelry Box.

“Miss?” he said politely.

I silently thanked my oxygen facials and caramel highlights for his decision not to call me ma’am. I was about to turn thirty-five, which meant I wouldn’t be able to hide from the liver-spotted hands of ma’am-dom forever, but I’d valiantly dodge their bony grasp for as long as possible.

“Where would you like these?” the guard asked, indicating the dozen or so rectangular boxes he was carrying on a tray draped in black velvet. The boxes were wrapped in a shade of silver that exactly matched the gun nestled against his ample hip.

“On the display table just inside the front door, please,” I instructed him. “People need to see them as soon as they walk in.” people would bid tens of thousands of dollars to win a sur­prise bauble, if only to show everyone else that they could. The guard was probably a retired policeman, trying to earn money to supplement his pension, and I knew he’d been ordered to keep those boxes in his sight all night long.

“Can I get you anything? Maybe some coffee?” I offered.

“Better not,” he said with a wry smile. The poor guy proba­bly wasn’t drinking anything because the jewelry store wouldn’t even let him take a bathroom break. I made a mental note to pack up a few dinners for him to bring home.

My BlackBerry vibrated just as I began placing the cupcakes around the head table and mentally debating the sticky problem of the video game guru who looked and acted like a thirteen-­year-old overdue for his next dose of Ritalin. I’d sandwich him between a female U.S. senator and a co-owner of the Washing­ton Blazes professional basketball team, I decided. They were both tall; they could talk over the techie’s head.

At that moment, a dozen executives were leaping up from their leather chairs to cluster around Michael’s limp body. they were all shouting at each other to call 911—this crowd was used to giving orders, not taking them—and demanding that someone perform CPR.

As I stood in the middle of the ballroom, smoothing out a crease on a white linen napkin and inhaling the sweet scent of lilies, the worst news I could possibly imagine was being delivered by a baby-faced representative from the D.C. opera Company.

“Melanie has a sore throat,” he announced somberly.

I sank into a chair with a sigh and wiggled my tired feet out of my shoes. Perfect. Melanie was the star soprano who was scheduled to sing a selection from Orfeo ed Euridice tonight. If those overflowing wineglasses didn’t get checkbooks whipped out of pockets, Melanie’s soaring, lyrical voice definitely would. I desperately needed Melanie tonight.

“Where is she?” I demanded.

“In a room at the mayflower hotel,” the opera rep said.

“Oh, crap! Who booked her a room?”

“Um . . . me,” he said. “Is that a prob—”

“Get her a suite,” I interrupted. “The biggest one they have.”

“Why?” he asked, his snub nose wrinkling in confusion. “How will that help her get better?”

“What was your name again?” I asked.

“Patrick Riley.”

Figures; put a four-leaf clover in his lapel and he could’ve been the poster boy for Welcome to Ireland!

“And Patrick, how long have you been working for the opera company?” I asked gently.

“Three weeks,” he admitted.

“Just trust me on this.” Melanie required drama the way the rest of us needed water. If I hydrated her with a big scene now, Melanie might miraculously rally and forgo a big scene tonight.

“Send over a warm-mist humidifier,” I continued as pat-rick whipped out a notebook and scribbled away, diligent as a cub reporter chasing his big break. “No, two! Get her loz­enges, chamomile tea with honey, whatever you can think of. Buy out CVs. if Melanie wants a lymphatic massage, have the hotel concierge arrange it immediately. Here—” I pulled out my BlackBerry and scrolled down to the name of my private doctor.

“Call Dr. Rushman. If he can’t make it over there, have him send someone who can.”

Dr. Rushman would make it, I was sure. He’d drop whatever he was doing if he knew I needed him. He was the personal physician for the Washington Blazes basketball team.

My husband, Michael, was another one of the team’s co-­owners.

“Got it,” Patrick said. He glanced down at my feet, turned bright red, and scampered away. Must’ve been my toe cleavage; it tends to have that effect on men.

I finished placing the final cupcake before checking my mes­sages. By the time I read the frantic e-mails from Kate, who was trying to find out if Michael had any recently diagnosed illnesses like epilepsy or diabetes that we’d been keeping secret, it was already over.

While Armani-clad executives clustered around my husband, Bob the mail-room guy took one look at the scene and sped down the hallway, white envelopes scattering like confetti be­hind him. He sprinted to the receptionist’s desk and found the portable defibrillator my husband’s company had purchased just six months earlier. Then he raced back, ripped open Michael’s shirt, put his ear to Michael’s chest to confirm that my husband’s heart had stopped beating, and applied the sticky patches to Michael’s chest. “Analyzing . . . ,” said the machine’s electronic voice. “Shock advisable.”

The Italian opera Orfeo ed Euridice is a love story. In it, Euridice dies and her grieving husband travels to the underworld to try to bring her back to life. Melanie the soprano was sched­uled to sing the heartbreaking aria that comes as Euridice is suspended between the twin worlds of Death and life.

Maybe it shouldn’t have surprised me that Euridice’s aria was playing in my head as Bob the mail-room guy bent over my husband’s body, shocking Michael’s heart until it finally began beating again. Because sometimes, it seems to me as if all of the big moments in my life can be traced back to the gorgeous, timeworn stories of opera.

Four minutes and eight seconds. That’s how long my hus­band, Michael Dunhill, was dead.

Four minutes and eight seconds. That’s how long it took for my husband to become a complete stranger to me.

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What People are saying about this

Jodi Picoult
Sarah Pekkanen's latest celebrates the healing power of female friendship for three very different young women sharing a NYC apartment. At turns bittersweet, laugh-out-loud funny, and painfully real, you'll wish you could move in with these girls. (Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Lone Wolf and Sing You Home)

Meet the Author

Sarah Pekkanen is the author of The Opposite of Me and Skipping a Beat. Her work has been published in People, The Washington Post, and USA TODAY, among others. She lives with her family in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

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