Rich and Pretty, Rumaan Alam: Book Review

rich and pretty rumaan alam book reviewEcco / Michael Bucher for TIME
Rich and Pretty Book Cover Rich and Pretty
Rumaan Alam
June 7, 2016

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?

Sarah and Lauren have grown up and grown apart. Although they’ve known each other for 20 years, they have always been very different. Sarah was born into money and her regal parents have taught her certain opinions and mannerisms that are often only emulated by the upper class (sniff, sniff). She has the sort of family that would push less desirable family details under the rug if they would tarnish the family image, and her parents are considered celebrities of sorts. Lauren, on the other hand, is more down to earth and doesn’t put on airs. She doesn’t have the best relationship with her family, or the worst, for that matter. She does have ambition for her career and is very independent; it’s not hard to guess which of these confidants is known for being “rich” while the other is more noticeably “pretty.” Coincidentally enough, this reference comes from a comment made in passing by prep school dates.

This review contains some spoilers and quotes from the book

“Sarah talks too loud. It’s a problem.”

— excerpt from Rumaan Alam’s Rich and Pretty

With both girls now living in New York, Sarah becomes engaged to her long-term boyfriend. There’s no question in her mind who her maid of honor will be. With no sisters of her own, it’s clear that her childhood friend Lauren will suit the role nicely. After all, Lauren is her best friend. Isn’t she?

For better or for worse, it’s not long before the preparation for this joyous occasion begins to magnify the differences in the two allies. Are they still friends? Why are they still friends? Do they even have anything in common? As the grand day approaches and yet another milestone is reached, the true colors of their friendship are revealed. True to life, there are so many layers to their friendship: the nitpicking, the misunderstandings, not to mention the non-verbal communication that can only be done between good friends.

As the years pass and we grow and change as Sarah and Lauren do, we might find ourselves with lifelong friends that we always stand by but don’t always know why. For that matter, we aren’t sure why we can’t just walk away or let go. For all the many good times we have with friends from childhood, occasionally they seem to fall apart when we get older. Will this be the case for Lauren and Sarah? Rumaan Alam successfully captures the female spirit in his prose; he is masterful in portraying not only the inner workings of friendship but the way our minds work as well.

“It’s about what, then? It’s about me being me, and not being you. This is what it’s about, Sarah. I am me, and you are you, and there was no difference there for, I don’t know, a decade? But now there is. And you get mad at me, for being me. And I get mad at you, for being you. Except you never actually get mad, you just get morally superior. And smug. And I don’t know what else. And I get mad. And then we don’t talk and it’s a whole fucking thing.”

— excerpt from Rumaan Alam’s Rich and Pretty

For example, although Sarah is still upset with Lauren for a recent indiscretion resulting argument, Lauren is still the first person she calls when she gets some shocking news. When deciding to call her friend, she recalls a pact they made as college girls. If one of them ever falls on the ice, the other one should fall too in order to make it less embarrassing. The promise was made jokingly, but it rings true when Sarah needs her friend. “Lolo, I fell on the ice.” She says over the phone.

I love the accurate realness of the book and would give it 5 stars if it weren’t for some slightly jarring discrepancies in the work. Although excellently done, the few awkward moments in the writing stood out starkly from the rest of the flow. In these instances, it becomes somewhat evident that either the author is male or that perhaps it has the styling similar to that of an erotica novel. So depending on what you enjoy reading, these moments in Rich and Pretty may or may not stand out to you lol. Additionally, a certain plot device involving a sordid detail of Sarah’s family history is alluded too early on and revisited more than once, but never explained or resolved. Since it wasn’t the main focus, it wasn’t too disappointing. (If you know what I am talking about, let’s discuss this in more detail below, yes?) However, it ultimately just seemed like a waste of time.

Regardless, though, if you want an entertaining read that endearingly reflects friendships, those of others and perhaps scarily your own, I would highly recommend reading Rich and Pretty.

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Errica Bailey
the authorErrica Bailey
A city girl from the midwest still not sure where to call home, Errica hopes to one day be able to focus her creative energy at a level akin to Carrie Matheson - off her meds of course.