These Girls: A Novel

These Girls: A Novel

by Sarah Pekkanen
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These Girls: A Novel by Sarah Pekkanen

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451612554
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication date: 04/10/2012
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 68,165
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Sarah Pekkanen is the bestselling author of The Ever After, The Opposite of Me, Skipping a Beat, These Girls, The Best of Us, Catching Air, Things You Won’t Say, and The Perfect Neighbors. Her work has been published in People, The Washington Post, and USA TODAY, among other publications. She lives with her family in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Read an Excerpt


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.


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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These Girls 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the third book by Sarah Pekkanen that I've read, and it may be my favorite so far. It's about three roommates who work together at a beauty magazine in NY. Like all of her books, it explores relationships, this time between female friends. It was a fast read, but I liked how it wasn't predictable. I thought I knew what was going to happen, but then there would be twists and turns that would take me by surprise. This is an enjoyable book that has a lot to say about how we need our "girlfriends."
PaulineMA More than 1 year ago
I was anxiously awaiting the release of this latest work by Sarah Pekkanen. I was not disappointed. This story is about the friendship of women. The struggles with career, image and love. I liked that it was told from the perspective of the 3 women, hearing the story of their own feelings and also how they saw each other. Each of them admired by the others for their special qualities but each feeling terribly inadequate. And making us realize that things are not always as they seem. Well written, complex characters you will love.
SiobhanMFallon More than 1 year ago
I have a four and a half year old daughter who wakes up too early every morning, and yet I found myself reading Sarah Pekkanen’s These Girls late into the night, braving a tired tomorrow because I needed to know what was going to happen next. These Girls follows the lives of three very different characters living in New York City: Cate, Renee, and Abby. Each young woman’s story is told with compassion, the characters quickly come to life a few short paragraphs, and the dialogue is some of the best I have read, so sharp and witty and full of personality. Their individual dramas are compelling and complicated. And somehow, with the novel brimming with such great characters and storylines, Pekkanen also manages to braid these lives together with the kind of friendship that will have readers tearfully calling up their childhood BFFs. This novel is beautiful on so many levels and you will think of these character long after you have finished the last page.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the 3rd book I've read by Sara and definitely not the last! I find the first few chapters of her books slow to start and a bit dry but once I get into a bit, I can't put the book down. I can't wait to see what happens next. Her character development is spot one and they are always wonderful characters you can connect with on a personal level.
RobertDowns More than 1 year ago
I’ve never been very good at doing what people expect me to do, so I decided to pick up THESE GIRLS, because (a) it sounded interesting, and (b) I’d heard Sarah Pekkanen’s name before, but I have trouble remembering where. It didn’t hurt that it also received a nice blurb from Jodi Picoult, and I happen to be a fan of her work. Aside from my memory loss, I do have a rather eclectic taste in books, and I’m pretty much willing to take a chance on just about any book that interests me. So I wasn’t all that surprised when I discovered I enjoyed this novel. It’s a light-hearted read with some rather interesting and realistic characters, stimulating storylines, and a couple of twists and turns. It’s not the most thought-provoking book I’ve ever read, but I read for about a hundred or so different reasons, and this one certainly fit the bill at the time I picked it up. THESE GIRLS manages to give more than a few insights into the way women think, and since I’m a guy, this is rather useful information. Some might even call it research. I’d call it a good, old fashioned beach read with more than a little heart. And if that’s what you’re looking for, you might want to check this one out. Robert Downs Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not awful; not very good.
anovelreview_blogspot_com More than 1 year ago
Cate, Renee and Abby are These Girls. They are three girls you can’t help but fall in love with. All three girls have history, baggage…things they are hiding…things they don’t want to talk about. Each girl has her own story, and their three stories overlap each other until they are braided together forming a strong friendship. The smart, sexy and talented Cate believes her career is like a house of cards, if someone figures out her lie her career will fall apart. With a new promotion at Gloss, Cate feels she has something to prove the boy’s club and to herself. As her career seems to hit some bumps in the road, Cate recognizes she is missing what is going on right in front of her. Renee wants no needs to get the promotion as the beauty editor of Gloss and she is willing to do whatever it takes. Even if whatever it takes means drastic measures to ‘fit’ into the idea of what a beautiful person must look like. The beauty of Renee is a beauty she doesn’t seem to see in the mirror. She is fun, funny and loving. Anyone would want to be her best friend, but she doesn’t realize her true beauty. Abby had been happily working as a nanny and fallen in love with the little girl in her charge, Annabelle. Out of nowhere, Abby rushes into the story as a mystery--you will pull one layer after another to finally unveil her pain. The more and more I read the deeper emotionally I connected to all three characters. I don’t always relate to characters or maybe to just one, but I related on some level to all three women! I think what surprised me the most, was while reading These Girls I felt as if I was becoming part of the friendship that was blooming. They became my friends. A definite recommened! I just have to add this one line that JUMPED out of the book, “I think the hardest things to talk about are also the most important things to talk about,” (Pekkanen 306) expresses why we need good friends. Now go grab yourself a copy of These Girls!
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Sarah Pekkanen has a way for developing characters that a reader can fall in love with at page one. She has the opportunity to develop three unique characters who begin as room mates and end as friends. Cate, Renee and Abby end up living together through different circumstances and each are struggling with hard life situations. Although I may have not personally related to any of the problems these girls are trying to overcome, I felt like I was really able to experience their full emotions. The reader was given details at precisely the right moment. I was completely impressed by the uniqueness each girl had, their voices were of their own. The other thing that struck a cord with me was the character of New York, I loved how New York was described. Another Sarah Pekkanen book that I will be passing along to friends and family.
Lilac_Wolf More than 1 year ago
A Lilac Wolf and Stuff Review The cover is classic chick lit - flows with Sarah's other novels too. Lone female staring out a window in New York. I'd bet on Abby - I do wish they would have put all three women on the cover. The story does go from Cate, to Renee and then to Abby. It follows their messed up love lives, and mistakes they have to overcome. I really connected with Renee, having my own issues with weight. The fact that she's in that industry at all proves her worth. And she's not even fat, but compared to all the models and fashionistas she works with, she feels every pound more than anyone else would. She even realizes that when thinking about going back home. Cate feels the need to prove herself because of a big mistake she made back in college. She comes across as cold and guarded to other people - even she realizes this. But what happened to her in college has to do with it. Abby - her story makes me want to curl up and cry. You won't find out what is going on in her life until the end. But it keeps you so addicted to the story, along with the other 2 that you won't be able to put it down. Sarah's writing is so smooth, and the flow is fairly fast - never boring. I truly was sad when the story ended. I fell in love with each and every character...well I'm talking the 3 main ones. There were a few outside ones I wasn't too crazy about, but they were written that way. :o)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LOVED this book! Perfect summer read! Didn't expect the book to be a page turner, but I found myself unable to put it down. Sarah Pekkanen writes with such detail and voice that I felt like I knew these girls and was their 4th roommate! If you enjoy girly shows, you'll love this book-very much has a "sex and the city" meets "younger" feel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I've read by Sarah and it won't be my last. Excellent character development and such a relatable plot. You feel connected to these three woman as their friendship and bond grows. I love that they're educated and independent, struggling with life's ever day issues of family, love, work and finances. You can see a little bit of yourself in each of these characters. I can't wait to read more from this author. I wish it'd been just a little longer! 262 pgs
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
blevinsgirl More than 1 year ago
I totally lucked out when I took a chance while looking for a new book to read and bought this. This was the first book I have read by this author, and as soon as I finished this one, I went and bought anything I could find by her. I LOVED IT. I got into it immediately. After the first page I was hooked and couldn't stop. The characters where very believable and down to earth. Read this book, you will NOT regret it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this bok but think the ending could have been better felt like i was left hanging
jordank8 More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! Seriously will make you want to move in with these girls! 
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sarah Pekkanen has been added to my favorite author list! (she knows chick lit). I have read five of her books recently, (all winners), and looking forward to reading The Opposite of Me and Skipping a Beat. (I seem to begin with newer ones and work my way back.) If you enjoy Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin (which I am a big fan of both), you will love Sarah’s books. She gets to the heart of the matter through friends and family, especially in the gal pal relationship. Each of her characters has a past, a story which has not been told, and much baggage--- she sets the stage delivering tidbits to keep you hanging until the end. Engaging, warming, and humorous and with realistic topics of student/teacher romantic relationship, nanny/boss, weight/diet pills, past unfaithfulness of parents, step siblings, and some secrets which haunt them and have been hidden away come to the surface, plus others. The fun setting in NYC, glamour magazines, and social media--which carries this fast paced novel to a satisfying ending. Would love to see a sequel and continuation of the character of Renee.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
bellaelena More than 1 year ago
A good story but I struggled wanting to read it
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was looking for something lighthearted, yet still intetesting. I found exactly what I was looking for in "These Girls." A very realistic view on female friendships and their insecurities without being nuerotic. I cant wait to read more by Sarah Pakkanen.