Review: The Pretty One by Lucinda Rosenfeld

Title: The Pretty One: A Novel about Sisters by Lucinda Rosenfeld
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Imprint: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley


Perfect. Pretty. Political. For nearly forty years, The Hellinger sisters of Hastings-on-Hudson-namely, Imperia (Perri), Olympia (Pia), and Augusta (Gus)–have played the roles set down by their loving but domineering mother Carol. Perri, a mother of three, rules her four-bedroom palace in Westchester with a velvet fist, managing to fold even fitted sheets into immaculate rectangles. Pia, a gorgeous and fashionable Chelsea art gallery worker, still turns heads after becoming a single mother via sperm donation. And Gus, a fiercely independent lawyer and activist, doesn’t let her break-up from her girlfriend stop her from attending New Year’s Day protests on her way to family brunch.

But the Hellinger women aren’t pulling off their roles the way they once did. Perri, increasingly filled with rage over the lack of appreciation from her recently unemployed husband Mike, is engaging in a steamy text flirtation with a college fling. Meanwhile Pia, desperate to find someone to share in the pain and joy of raising her three-year-old daughter Lola, can’t stop fantasizing about Donor #6103. And Gus, heartbroken over the loss of her girlfriend, finds herself magnetically drawn to Jeff, Mike’s frat boy of a little brother. Each woman is unable to believe that anyone, especially her sisters, could understand what it’s like to be her. But when a freak accident lands their mother to the hospital, a chain of events is set in motion that will send each Hellinger sister rocketing out of her comfort zone, leaving her to wonder: was this the role she was truly born to play?

With The Pretty One, author Lucinda Rosenfeld does for siblings what she did for female friendship in I’m So Happy for You, turning her wickedly funny and sharply observant eye on the pleasures and punishments of lifelong sisterhood.

The Review:

Lucinda Rosenfeld ‘s The Pretty One is a fascinating novel about the sometimes complicated relationship between adult sisters.

The Pretty One raises some very interesting questions about family relationships and how family expectations and labels come into play throughout adulthood. Perri, Pia and Gus are now in their mid to late thirties and they seem stuck in the roles assigned to them as children. Oldest sister Perri is The Responsible One, middle sister Pia is The Pretty One and youngest sister Gus is The Rebellious One. The sisters’ relationship is complicated by their petty jealousies and insecurities that each of the women feels toward their sisters. They are a close knit family, but they continually undermine one another with gossip and their envy of each others’ lives.

The Pretty One is a difficult book to review. On the one hand, I found it to be mired in negativity since each of the sisters is going through their own individual crises. They are unhappy with their lives and they are extremely hypercritical of one another. No one was satisfied with what they had in their lives and all they could focus on was the negative.

But the further the novel progressed, the more reflective and self-aware each of the girls becomes. They still place way too much emphasis on their “assigned” childhood labels, but they do begin to realize that perhaps there is more to them than their perceived roles.

What saved The Pretty One for me was the fact that the sisters do finally begin to change and Lucinda Rosenfeld manages to pull off a happily ever after ending. It is an interesting and easy to read novel that is realistic and depicts the good, the bad and the ugly of family relationships.


Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Hachette Book Group, Little Brown and Company, Lucinda Rosenfeld, Rated B, Review

5 Responses to Review: The Pretty One by Lucinda Rosenfeld

  1. Eileen

    tell me about it. I’ve been living this book for years. I am the middle of three sisters and we’ve been assigned tags all our lives. It is so hard to break the mold. Thanks for your review.

    • Book Reviews & More by Kathy

      I’m the middle of 3 sisters too, Eileen. All I can say is, I am much happier 10 hours away.

  2. Timitra

    I’m the middle of three sisters as well…really interesting sounding book-thanks Kathy!

  3. Meg

    I’m the oldest of two girls and saw a bit of myself in Perri, though I didn’t relate to the women as much as I wanted to! I did find the book to be pretty negative — and a bit of a downer, honestly. But it was thought-provoking!

    • Book Reviews & More by Kathy

      I totally agree that was negative, Meg, and I hate a hard time relating to them too. About halfway through, I found myself getting pretty invested in the story and I do like how it ended.