In this warm, funny, thoroughly candid novel, acclaimed author Cathy Lamb introduces an unforgettable heroine who's half the woman she used to be, and about to find herself for the first time...
Two years and 170 pounds ago, Stevie Barrett was wheeled into an operating room for surgery that most likely saved her life. Since that day, a new Stevie has emerged, one who walks without wheezing, plants a garden for self-therapy, and builds and paints fantastical wooden chairs. At thirty-five, Stevie is the one thing she never thought she'd be: thin.
But for everything that's changed, some things remain the same. Stevie's shyness refuses to melt away. She still can't look her neighbors' gorgeous great-nephew in the eye. The Portland law office where she works remains utterly dysfunctional, as does her family--the aunt, uncle, and cousins who took her in when she was a child. To top it off, her once supportive best friend clearly resents her weight loss.
By far the biggest challenge in Stevie's new life lies in figuring out how to define her new self. Collaborating with her cousins to plan her aunt and uncle's problematic fortieth anniversary party, Stevie starts to find some surprising answers--about who she is, who she wants to be, and how the old Stevie evolved in the first place. And with each revelation, she realizes the most important part of her transformation may not be what she's lost, but the courage and confidence she's gathering, day by day.
As achingly honest as it is witty, Such A Pretty Face is a richly insightful novel of one woman's search for love, family, and acceptance, of the pain we all carry--and the wonders that can happen when we let it go at last.
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Thoroughly enjoyed
Posted July 25, 2011 by Abby , Vancouver, BCI thoroughly enjoyed reading this book!
2 . AMAZING BOOK!!
Posted May 16, 2011 by jenna , massapequa, nyBook was a GREAT read!! i couldn't put it down and at the same time, didn't want it to end. Heart wrenching, warm, and still a little funny at times. I loved Stevies flashbacks from her childhood the most. All the many eccentric characters made this book a true treat!! And i long for a "jake "of my own one day =P Cant wait to read it again..highly recommend!!
July 27, 2010
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Excerpt from Such A Pretty Face by Cathy Lamb
I know when it started. It was June 14th, two days after my tenth birthday. An eerie red-gold haze enshrouded the moon. Frothing gray and black clouds drifted across it, as if they were trying to hide its evilness, but couldn't quite overpower that glowing white light.
I noticed the moon as we sped toward the river, our car careening back and forth over the yellow lines as she chanted and I clung to my terrified sister.
The rain drizzled down through the darkness, stopped, then pounded the top of the car, as if millions of tiny black cannonballs had been released from the bag of the devil himself.
"Momma, stop!" I cried as she barreled through a red light.
But she couldn't hear me, not with the other voices clamoring in her head. She whispered, she raged, she yelled at her hallucinations. "Get out of here, Punk. This isn't about you. I'm not getting tied down to that chair again! You won't put your tentacles and ropes on me!"
I tried the other name. "Helen! Can you hear me, Helen?" She didn't respond, smashing her floppy yellow hat down on her head with both hands.
I realized, almost ill with panic, that the voices had won. It had been a long, soul-crushing battle, but I tried to save us anyhow. There was nothing else left to do. "There's no chair! I'll tell Punk to leave and take the tentacles and ropes with him. I'll get him for you!"
"Punk is bad; he's chasing us with his red eyes and he won't let us go. I'll save you, girl kid!"
We swerved again, snaking all over the road, barely missing a truck.
"I scared, Stevie, I scared," my sister whimpered, her little face tucked into my neck. She smelled of soap and lemon shampoo, her fingers sticky from an orange Popsicle.
I was scared, too--so scared my brain felt as if it were rattling in my head, my knees knocking together. "It's okay, Sunshine. Grandma and Grandpa will be here soon."
But I knew it wasn't going to be soon enough.
I knew that.
We whipped around a corner and skidded onto a one-lane, wood bridge. Helen slammed on the brakes; the car fishtailed, and we crashed into the rail. She scrambled out, swearing at the "spying, bad Punk," then wrenched open our door and tried to yank us out of the car. Sunshine clutched me, screaming, as I gripped the seat, trying to save us both, my charm bracelet cutting into my skin. When Helen grabbed my heels and my hands lost their white-knuckled grip, I grabbed the door handle, then the door.
But she was strong--the voices made her stronger--and my fingers were pried away, one by one, Sunshine clinging to my waist as she shook with fear. Helen half dragged, half carried us to the rail as the boiling clouds parted and that strange moon mocked us in the distance, the only witness to our dance with death.
She had wrapped tin foil around the waist of her black dress, and it ripped as we fought her, as we scratched and shrieked. She was wearing her best black heels, and they tapped on the wood of the bridge, the black line up her nylons perfectly straight, which was so unusual, so surreal, it scared me more than anything else.
"Now you've made Command Center mad!" Helen yelled, wrestling us over to the rail. "Don't destroy the communications!"
We pleaded, we tried to run, and she punched both of us in the face, shooting us backward onto the bridge. "Shut up, girl kid! Shut up, Trash Heap!" She had never done that to us before, and it stunned me into silence, into obedience, for one shattered moment. "They're spying on us! They can see everything!"
Dizziness sent my mind into a whirl and I wrapped my arms around Sunshine, who was gasping with fright and bleeding. Helen ripped us apart, and I knew that what was left of my momma, if there was anything gentle and kind left in her, was way, way back, at the end of a labyrinth of tunnels in her troubled mind, crisscrossing the lines of insanity.
Her arms banded across my chest and waist as heavy raindrops hit me, the wind lifting my skirt up. I didn't recognize the raw, terrified scream that tore from my throat as I squeezed her neck and bony shoulders with my arms, my tears mixing with the rain, her floppy yellow hat flying off into the wind.
"No, Momma, don't," I begged. "Please, Momma! Stop!"
"Leave us alone, Punk," she commanded the moon. "You can't read my mind anymore. You're done. It's all done. Take Command Center with you down to hell."
She heaved my struggling body up on the rail and briefly held me close, rocking me like a baby, then kissed me on the lips. I saw Sunshine fight to stand up, blood streaming from her head. She tugged on our mother's arms, kicked her shins. "I hate you! I hate you! Let go of Stevie! Let go of sister!"
Her words flew into the churning sky, swirled around the moon, and then they were gone, making no impact on our mother.
"I am saving you," Helen yelled at me, the stormy wind whipping her blond hair around her face. "I am saving you from them." Then she dropped her head back and said, her voice edgy and guttural, "Save yourself. Do not save it. Don't save that Trash Heap." She shoved me over the rail of the bridge, then yanked my clinging hands from around her neck, our fingertips the last to touch before I tumbled and somersaulted into the rushing river.
It was freezing cold and pitch black, the water wrapping me up tight as I plunged through the silent darkness. My feet never hit, and I paddled to the top, choking, sputtering, knowing Sunshine would soon join me.
I have to save her. I have to save Sunshine.
I fought against the water as the current swirled me away, waves splashing against my face, surrounding my body like a wet vice, my head still reeling from pain. I twisted in the river's grasp and saw Sunshine, her pink dress billowing out like a bell as she was thrown over the rail into the murkiness of the river. Her cry, high and thin, echoed under the bridge.
I swam toward her, my arms pinwheeling as hard as I could, but I was panicking, gasping for breath, the water dragging me away, my black hair covering my face.
Between the shifting shadows I saw Helen standing on the rail of the bridge, arms outstretched, head back. The red-gold haze parted and the moonlight illuminated her slim form. I couldn't hear her, but I knew she was singing and I knew what song it was.
In a remote corner of my mind I noted her outfit again as she teetered on the rail. She was wearing her black cocktail dress, her best black heels, and her pearls. She got dressed up to kill us, I thought, as another wave swamped me. She got dressed up to kill us.
She curved her body, palms together over her head, then dove into the choppy water. I never saw her come up again. They did, however, find her best black heels later. Downriver.
I saw the pink dress but not for very long, as another current came, perhaps the sister current to mine, and swept Sunshine away. I heard her terror, I heard her sobbing my name, I hollered back at her, told her I was coming, I promised I would save her--but in the inky blackness, fighting off the chill of the water and the swirling waves, I lost her.
I heard her death in the rigid silence as soon my ragged voice was the only one left in that tragic, shattered night.
I have not saved her.
I have not saved my sister.
She is gone because of me.
Under that moon with the eerie red-gold haze and those frothing clouds, that's where it all began.
I started inhaling food the next day. Mountains of it.
It continued for more than two decades.
And the song my momma was singing?
It was "Amazing Grace."
My momma, after throwing her two daughters off a bridge, was singing "Amazing Grace."