It's the summer of 1982 in Blacksburg, Virginia - seven years after the suspicious death of a son and sibling - and the Sobel family is hungry.
Francie dresses in tennis skirts and ankle socks and weighs her grams of allotted carrots and iceberg lettuce. Her semi-estranged husband, Tate, prefers a packed fridge and hidden doughnuts. Daughters Enid, 10, and Vivvy, almost 13, are subtler versions of their parents, measuring their summer vacation by meals had or meals skipped. But at summer's end, secrets both old and new emerge, and Francie disappears, leaving the family teetering on the brink.
Told from alternating points of view by the four living Sobels, Pretend We Are Lovely is a sharp and darkly funny story of forgiveness, family secrets, and the losses we inherit. At its core is the ever-complicated and deeply devoted bond of sisterhood as the girls, left mostly to their own devices, must navigate their way through middle school, find comfort in each other, and learn the difference between food and nourishment.
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