The Rise, Fall, and Return of Sarah Mandelbaum

Sarah Mandelbaum thought she was finally getting it together when after a soul-crushing stint at music school, she lands a job at her favorite rock ‘n roll magazine, joins a promising rock band, and scores a coveted apartment in the happening East Village. Everything is just about perfect until some unconscionable behavior from an up-and-coming rockstar, her nymphomaniac roommate, and this guy named Peter hogging her shower lands her at a business daily newspaper writing about beauty products. She finds herself living in a fourth-floor walk-up in the Bronx with a stage fright so crippling she can no longer even play in a band, much less perform the solo open mics crucial to getting a record deal.

Cara Kagan

Things seem to be on the rise when Sarah’s recruited by the fabulous Fiona Doyle for a top spot at high fashion Sophistiquée magazine. But she’s instead plunged headlong into a snake pit that rivals 7th-grade gym class in terms of toxicity—even if everyone is far better groomed and dressed. Almost as soon as she slips into her first pair of stilettos, Sarah realizes that between the plotting and scheming of the industry’s Fashion Flamingos and outrageous demands from Sophistiquée’s creative director Henri-François Bernard, her fall is imminent. Caught between the need to pay off her staggering student loans and the struggle to regain her self-confidence, Sarah seems completely stuck between that proverbial rock and a hard place. But with the help of a tattooed guitar teacher, statuesque Southern pastry chef, 90-lb financial analyst with anger management issues, and a rockstar muse, she discovers the true path to her return. The question is: Will she take it?

The Rise, Fall, and Return of Sarah Mandelbaum gives a rich and hilarious birdseye view of the music and fashion publishing industries—two of the most exciting and dazzling professions out there. Narrated in Sarah’s honest, witty, and take-no-prisoners voice, it follows her surprising rise as a four-foot-eleven, frizzy-haired, ripped-jean/concert T-shirt—wearing, French fry-eating rocker in a world of half-starved, couture-clad, smooth-haired glamazons. It takes place in NYC in the post-grunge, ultra-glamorous ‘90s before the death of print media when magazines were the sizes of telephone books (when there were telephone books) and fashion shows rivaled Barnum & Bailey Circus productions. Then, just a few editors (not thousands of “influencers”) dictated who was hip, what was hot, and when it was all happening. Meanwhile, people got their daily dose of gossip from a handful of tabloids and not today’s ever- present-always-in-your-face social media. You might think that meant a kinder, gentler world than we inhabit today, but think again.

Read an excerpt...

I opened the shiny, hot pink envelope doused with her hit-you-over-the-head-jasmine and patchouli-laced perfume with my name scrawled across in red Sharpie and took out the matching equally noxious notecard:

Sarah,
I’m sure even you will have to agree that you’ve become insufferable to live with. These last several months with you have been an unrelenting nightmare. I can no longer tolerate your selfishness, total lack of consideration, and socially unacceptable behavior. My parents and therapist agree that living with you is toxic to my mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
So, at great personal and emotional expense, I have devoted considerable time and energy to pack up all your things—except your leather jacket, which has always looked better on me. I am sure you will agree that giving it to me is the least you can do, given that I will have to pay the entire month’s rent until I can find another roommate since you are leaving without notice. You can come up for your furniture only when your movers are here. I do not feel safe having you back in the apartment, given your inclinations to vengeful outbursts. I hope you will take this as a wake-up call to get the help you need.
I am worried about you—
Desiree

Martha W. Alpert
Martha W. Alpert
2023-07-03
The Rise, Fall, and Return of Sarah Mandelbaum: Most Enjoyable! First thing I saw when I opened the book - The "Roommate Note"! OMG - I'm gonna love this ride and love it I did, pausing only for the downswings, pain, heartbreak. But relishing the highs and cheering Sarah on.Some of this evoked long-forgotten events in my own life. Especially the office politcs. And the Girlfriends. And being single in NYC.I think many can relate to Sarah's experiences and maybe learn something about standing up for yourself and knowing who you are.
Rosalinde Block
Rosalinde Block
2023-07-01
The Rise, Fall, and Return of Sarah Mandelbaum: Cosmo meets Rolling Stone meets Hadassah: A delightfully irreverent look at survival in New York City, peppered with the humility of lifey-ness. You will giggle and cringe as Sarah, an aspiring rock-and-roller, juggles her true aspirations, paying her dues in the ultra-beauteous world of glamour--though not quite as glamorous as one would think. A truly fun read!
Bigdog
Bigdog
2023-06-23
The Rise, Fall, and Return of Sarah Mandelbaum: Loved this one! A funny, imaginative story that led me to look for other books the author wrote. One of the hallmarks of a great story is when the tale is about something you don't know much about, yet you are still pulled into the narrative and left having wholly enjoyed the experience and looking to hear more. The Rise, Fall, and Return of Sarah Mandelbaum is about following your inner voice and dreams, even if, perhaps particularly, like all human beings, it takes a few starts and stops before you get there. Of course, lots of stories are about that, but this one is creative and fun and leaves you rooting for Sarah and hoping that sometime in the not-too-distant future, we get more stories about her journey. If you liked The Devil Wears Prada, music, especially rock and roll, and a bit of romance, you will love this book.
Eva Richter
Eva Richter
2023-06-22
The Rise, Fall, and Return of Sarah Mandelbaum: A Wonderful Read Wonderfully well written, with verve and wit and imagination. This is a delightful account of the trials and triumphs of a young woman trying to navigate the shoals of the fashion world and being pulled by other forces and her many talents into a very different life. The narrative never flags, and the reader roots squarely for Sarah Mandelbaum, who never disappoints as she faces her choices with wonder and prevailing Joie de vivre. A fun read!
Stephen B.
Stephen B.
2023-06-20
The Rise, Fall, and Return of Sarah Mandelbaum: Outstanding! This is a perfect summer read! Absorbing and fun read! Finished in 3 days. When does book 2 come out? I can't wait!
jfried01
jfried01
2023-06-19
The Rise, Fall, and Return of Sarah Mandelbaum: Funny and absorbing! I absolutely loved this book. The Rise, Fall, and Return of Sarah Mandelbaum is fun, funny, absorbing, and fast-moving, with just enough focus on weighty issues to give it depth and intensity. Reading it is like being a fly on the wall watching someone else’s exciting life while relating to much of it. The imagery is so evocative, and the dialogue so well-placed and authentic that I genuinely felt like I knew all the characters and that they could be actual people in my life.The book is about many things. It’s about music, fashion, beauty, overcoming bullies, following your dreams, New York City in the ‘90s, and regaining your self-confidence. But what I loved most about it was Kagan’s focus on the power of true friendships and how she perfectly captures the subtlety of female relationships. I plan on giving this book to all my close friends.
JC
JC
2023-06-17
The Rise, Fall, and Return of Sarah Mandelbaum: Absorbing, familiar and uplifting This well written novel is an easy read that made me feel like I was looking backwards into the window of someone I once knew, or even myself.Didn't want it to end