Sarah Mandelbaum Book Club Kit

Thanks so much for choosing The Rise, Fall, and Return of Sarah Mandelbaum for your book club. I couldn’t be more thrilled and honored to share it with you.

The power of close friends and friendships is one of my favorite themes of the book, so I hope you’ll enjoy the time you spend with your buddies bonding over it. And if you all decide to kick back over good food and tasty beverages and catch up with each other instead of discussing the book, I totally get it and am so happy I gave you all an excuse to get together.

Sarah started as a way more talented and fictionalized me (she plays guitar a lot better than I do, for example). So initially, I built her world around fictionalized accounts of some of my more momentous experiences in and out of the world of high fashion magazine publishing, which I inhabited from the early ’90s through the early 2,000s. But soon enough, Sarah took on a life of her own, and she started telling me exactly who she was and what she would do, which began to get further and further away from my own experiences. Her independence from me was further cemented when a woman in one of my writing workshops completely disagreed when I said that Sarah was a version of me. “There’s no way Sarah is you,” she said, as emphatically as I’ve heard anyone say anything. “She’s way cooler.”

Like Sarah, though, I’ve been super fortunate to have wonderful close friendships with some incredible people. Consider Esme and Penny combinations of many of them with some extra sugar and spice thrown in for good measure. This story is fiction, after all!

Like Sarah, I was unpopular in grade-junior high schools and tried desperately to win the approval of the “Queen Bees.” And to be honest with you, I felt the same way in the high fashion industry, though I did meet a lot of amazing people and got to experience a lot of fabulous events and places along the way. The thing is, it was never a good fit for mostly hippie/rocker me, but I kept trying to jam my round self into the square hole of high fashion anyway.

Sarah’s journey back to music versus continually trying to force herself to be a fashionista is a reminder to me—and I hope to you—that being yourself is the only way to go.

I hope you’ll enjoy my suggested questions for discussion and playlist to help get your Sarah Mandelbaum party started. I’d be absolutely thrilled if you would upload a photo of your group to the form on my photo gallery page so I can include it.

I also want to thank you if you decide to tag me in your social media posts, share this book on social media or with friends, or ask for it or for me to do a reading at your local bookstore or library. And I’d so appreciate it if you left me a review on Goodreads. Your liking the book and recommending it means the world to me. 


Suggested Sarah Soundtrack (Listen on Spotify)

Music was as crucial to Sarah as oxygen. Here, some of her favorite songs.

Discussion Questions

Here are some questions you can use to get your book club discussions started.

1. Do you think Sarah’s excuses for continuing to live with Desiree are valid? Have you ever been in a living situation like this? What did it take for you to leave?
2. Why is Sarah’s hair such a magnet for criticism and ridicule? Have you ever experienced someone critiquing you for something so seemingly trivial? What did you do about it?
3. Morrisa is distant and dismissive of her family and Sarah is involved with it. Why does Anna Elias Mandelbaum seem to favor Morrisa over Sarah? Or does she?
4. Sarah constantly says she is not interested in fashion, yet she is unquestionably excited by Irma’s hand-me-downs, especially the Balenciaga handbag. How would you explain this contradiction?
5. Even though Saffron Meadows is just a figment of Ollie’s imagination, she seems to inspire Sarah. Why do you think that is?
6. How can so many people continue to work with Henri-François despite his abusive behavior? How does he continue to stay in power with so many lawsuits against him and so much negative press being written about him?
7. How is Sarah different from the rest of the staff at Sophistiquée and fashion magazines in general? How is she similar?
8. Why does Sarah find it so difficult to deal with Henri-François’ attitude and demands when Christie and Samara seem to handle them and even prefer him to Fiona as their boss?
9. How is it that Sarah and Christie have so much in common but can’t seem to find a common ground?
10. How does working at Sophistiquée change Sarah? Are these positive or negative changes?
11. Do you think there is a shift in Sarah’s attitude when she is out to dinner with her friends and Stone Stevens? If so, how would you describe it and what do you think caused it?
12. What do you think finally helped Sarah take charge of her life and stand up to her bullies?
13. Why do you think Sarah finally agrees to do an open mic with Ollie? How do you think it will go?
14. Were you surprised Sarah chose to use her real name vs. Saffron Meadows on the open mic signup sheet? Why do you think she did?
15. What direction do you think Sarah’s career will take post-Sophistiquée? What about her relationship with Jax?