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PRETEND WE ARE LOVELY by Noley Reid Kirkus Star


by Noley Reid

Pub Date: July 18th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-941040-66-9
Publisher: Tin House

In Reid’s debut novel, a family must navigate the secret currents of guilt, obsession, loss, and—most dangerous of all—hope in this pitch-perfect examination of two Southern seasons in 1982.

Enid, Vivvy, Francie, and Tate are a nuclear family in the most traditional sense of the word. Tate, self-indulgent and perpetually flummoxed, is a professor of philosophy at the nearby college. Francie’s mania for precision has found its expression in the micromanagement of her household and her daughters’ lives while the two girls, poised on the brink of developing into women, range the lush, brambly suburbia of their childhood with the freedom of a bygone age. However, jutting from the placid surface of their domestic routines, the jagged topography of the family’s past threatens to overwhelm both their present and their future. Set seven years after the accidental death of their oldest child, Shelly, the present day of this fever-bright novel of desire and withholding sees Tate and Francie estranged and Francie in the middle of an anorexic episode wherein she has reduced herself to a list of her articulate bones and her “spinning gold ring.” Enid, who takes after her father, deals with the stress of her home life by hoarding food, retreating into vividly sensory fugue states wherein she overeats to the point of illness. Vivvy, more like her mother, denies herself and channels her rage, fear, and longing into violence against her surroundings, her sister, herself. As the novel spins toward its climax, Reid intensifies each of the elusive, flickering perceptions of her characters in turn, creating a story that proceeds through a montage of tactile sensory indulgence.

In prose that ambulates between stark, hallucinatory, fuddled, and chewy according to the guiding character’s point of view, Reid masterfully denies her novel the impulse to solve its characters’ problems, leaving the reader with the brutal task of lingering within their experience.