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:

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—