Book Review – These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen

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.

Sarah Pekkanen

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 review written, and reprinted, courtesy of Heather Figearo.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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6 Responses to Book Review – These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen

  1. Heather April 10, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    I’m adding this to my “to read” list right now!

  2. Ariel April 10, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    Doesn’t it look so good? I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about Sarah Pekkanen–as a person and a writer.

  3. Marti Pieper April 12, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    I’ve pretty much figured it out: what She Reads likes, I like. Adding Pekkanen to my to-read list. Thanks, Ariel!

  4. Marti Pieper April 12, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    Okay, not Ariel. Heather. But I know you were there somewhere!

  5. Ariel April 12, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    I knew I liked you for a reason, Marti! You have good taste. 🙂


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