Monday, April 9, 2012

These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen — 336 pgs

Renee, Abby and Cate have found themselves sharing an apartment in New York. While Cate and Renee both work for the ultra-hip magazine Gloss, Abby has only just arrived in New York after fleeing a troubled past. For Cate, a recent promotion to Features Editor at Gloss brings newfound power struggles with tetchy journalists and a boss who seems to want more from her than she’s willing to give. Renee is vying for a position as Fashion Editor and has only recently found out the lengths that she must go to in order to obtain this most coveted job, while Abby has left behind a little girl she has grown to love when her job as a nanny began to creep into dangerous territory. All three women have unrealized goals behind and enormous struggles ahead. Through their various trials and heartbreaks, they will come to discover that the one thing more important than their careers and self-image is the friendship that they have tenuously begun to build. As they navigate office treachery, self esteem issues, and secrets that have been long buried and forgotten, they realize that it’s impossible for them to go it alone. As their friendships grow and solidify, each woman comes to grasp the beauty of their individuality and the power and strength that lies deep within themselves. In this endearing and bracingly touching novel, Sarah Pekkanen explores the hidden depths of three women trying to make a new life for themselves and the beautiful bonds that hold them together.

I’ve long wanted to explore the writing of Sarah Pekkanen, and each time I read another rave review of one of her books, I mentally note that almost everyone I know finds her work to be smart, engaging and touching. Reading this book was an addictive experience. I couldn’t put it down and became grumbly and ill-tempered when I had to let it linger, even for a moment. Pekennan writes characters that are instantly relatable and puts her readers squarely in their camp, rooting for them even when the odds are stacked against them. These three women are the kind of characters that instantly clicked with me, and I was firmly entrenched in discovering as much about them as I possibly could.

Cate is your typical go-getter. Though she’s smart, capable and winsome, she must always present a strong and forward thinking presence because there are many obstacles in her way. As a competent woman, Cate struggles with having to push the limits because, at times, it seems that people don’t respect her. Cate, while being at the top of her game, is hiding a secret that may undo her, and she has a lot to prove to those naysayers who long to topple her. Though she’s strong and intelligent, she knows when to ask for help and when to remain steadfast. Ultimately, Kate struggles because she’s unable to trust, and when she finally begins to let Abby and Renee into her life, she begins to realize that her lack of intimacy with others may be preventing her from truly having it all.

Renee, on the other hand, is a softer force and often deflects her self-esteem issues with humor. While Renee isn’t overweight, she struggles with weight issues and body shame that sets her on a dangerous path. Like Cate, Renee desperately wants to prove herself but feels that her weight is a significant factor in her unhappiness. I felt that I could somewhat relate to Renee and her thought processes, and when an unexpected family crisis looms on the horizon, her problems are compounded. As Renee works harder and harder to obtain her goals, they all seem to slip away one by one. It’s easy enough for her to laugh on the outside, but on the inside, Renee is slowly falling apart.

Abby is an instinctual caregiver who has lost direction and focus after finding herself morally and ethically compromised. When she arrives in New York to share an apartment with Cate and Renee, she is dispirited and brokenhearted. She’s not only eaten away by guilt and regret, but suffers from severe bouts of panic that she can’t understand. As Cate and Renee work together to help mentally bouey Abby, the three discover they share an affinity for each other and they all begin to lean on each other and provide each other with the compassion that they so desperately need. Abby is the catalyst for many of the emotional bonds that form between the women, and despite her need she is once again able to find the nurturing parts of herself to give to the other two women.

If you enjoy books that highlight the amazing resiliency of women’s friendships, this is definitely the book for you. It’s gentle without being sugar coated, and Pekkanen has a way of making her story extremely relevant for women of all ages. I also appreciated the fact that the writing was crisp and bracing and that the plot was extremely tight. I’ve already ordered my next novel by Pekkanen and am looking forward to digging in very soon. A great read. Highly recommended.


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

27 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I haven't read this one yet, but I've loved the rest of Pekkanen's work so I feel sure I'll love this one too. She "gets" emotions and relationships and writes about them so well.

Wall-to-wall books said...

This book sounds really good. One that I think i would enjoy. I like these kinds of books. Ya know... just about life. And I love books about strong women who can hold their own and friends that stick together!

Great review Heather!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I am usually not into books about women's friendships, but as you say, there are so many raves about her books! I really have to try her work!

Mary (Bookfan) said...

This is on my TBR list, Heather. I enjoyed your review. So far I've only read Skipping a Beat - I went through an entire box of tissues in the last part of that book. Whew!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Well, I just did a month of her and I'm a bigger fan than ever. I loved this book. She gets the power of a girlfriend, and she also understands the fears and obstacles that women have. I really hope she writes another one with these same characters.

Darlene said...

I'll be reading this soon and I can't wait. I've got a few others of hers as well on my reader. I'm glad yo enjoyed it!

Jenny said...

I've been wanting to read one of her books for a while now too and am thinking I should start with this one!

nomadreader said...

I've been meaning to read Pekkanen too, as all of her books seem to get great reviews. I have her first novel already, so perhaps I'll start with that one. I'm glad you discovered an author you love so much!

Suko said...

Wonderful review! I will add this book to my TBR list right away.

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) said...

I've seen this a few places recently. I'm really glad you enjoyed it. It's now sitting on my list thanks to your lovely review. :O)

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I do like books about women's friendships as long as the number of characters are manageable. This sounds goo, and glad to see you liked it.

Jenny said...

I do like books about women's friendships, and I bet I'd enjoy this much more now that I live in New York, than I would have before I moved here. It's fun to have that flash of geographic recognition when you're reading a book about the place where you live!

Harvee said...

Always a hard challenge - heading off to the big city to make a successful life. I am curious to see how their friendship helps them through it all. Nice review - haven't read this author before.

Beth F said...

I do like the way Pekkanen writes. Can't wait to dive into this one.

reviewsbylola said...

This book seems to be very popular at the moment. I have to confess, I am not at all familiar with the author!

Athira said...

I am yet to read any of Sarah Pekkanen's works, although I've heard a lot about them. This one also looks to be good.

Stacy at A Novel Source said...

I have one of her books on my tbr shelves to read but for some reason have avoided it...i think because it looks more like a chick-lit fluff read...but when I read reviews of her work, all of the reviews come back as smart, strong, emotionally developed characters....this one sounds like one i would dive into and not want to come out of

Teela said...

I have not read any of Sarah Pekkanen's work, but would love to read and post reviews on this one. I'll have to keep my eyes open for a giveaway of this. Teelayoung@hotmail.com

Marie said...

Sounds like a great read! Every once in a while something like this is just perfect.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I've wanted to read one of her books forever, but Sandy's Pekkanen Until You Puke month pushed me over the edge. This one sounds fantastic!!

Aarti said...

You know, I was just thinking the other day that as a society, we don't focus as much on friendships among women as we do friendships among men (particularly "bromances"). I'm so glad to have been proven wrong as evidenced by this book!

Nymeth said...

Ha - I said the exact same thing Aarti says in her comments in a review today. I'm always so happy to find stories that break away from that trend. Thank you for bringing this to my attention!

Amy said...

I really like reading books about women's friendships and this one sounds especially good. Of course, I love that its set in NYC! Your terrific review describes Pekannen's writing so beautifully and makes it sound so inviting...thank goodness I finally am reading one of her books!I picked up Skipping A Beat a couple of days ago and am now reading it.

I think I'd like to read These Girls next!

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

What a great review! This sounds exactly like something I would love reading. Good thing it's in the mail, getting here soon I hope! :)

Jenners said...

I imagine that Sandy's Pekkanen Until You Puke month played no small part in getting you into this author. I've only read one of her books but I do plan on reading more. This sounds like a good one to try next.

Anita said...

I just wrote my review of this book, and it's nothing compared to yours. I love they way you wrote about each woman, and really saw their struggles.
I really enjoyed the book.

Darlene said...

I'm such a sucker for books that involve the friendship of women and this one hit the spot. I really enjoyed it and loved the characters. I felt their issues and them, as women, we're very real to life.

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