Friends and Strangers
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A TODAY SHOW #ReadWithJenna BOOK CLUB PICK
An insightful, hilarious, and compulsively readable novel about a complicated friendship between two women who are at two very different stages in life, from the bestselling author of Maine and Saints for All Occasions.
Elisabeth, an accomplished journalist and new mother, is struggling to adjust to life in a small town after nearly twenty years in New York City. Alone in the house with her infant son all day (and awake with him much of the night), she feels uneasy, adrift. She neglects her work, losing untold hours to her Brooklyn moms' Facebook group, her "influencer" sister's Instagram feed, and text messages with the best friend she never sees anymore. Enter Sam, a senior at the local women's college, whom Elisabeth hires to babysit. Sam is struggling to decide between the path she's always planned on and a romantic entanglement that threatens her ambition. She's worried about student loan debt and what the future holds. In short order, they grow close. But when Sam finds an unlikely kindred spirit in Elisabeth's father-in-law, the true differences between the women's lives become starkly revealed and a betrayal has devastating consequences.
A masterful exploration of motherhood, power dynamics, and privilege in its many forms, Friends and Strangers reveals how a single year can shape the course of a life.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Best-selling author J. Courtney Sullivan has a knack for drilling down to the fragile heart of the most complicated relationships, a skill that’s on full display in her fifth novel. When Elisabeth hires Sam, a senior at the local women’s college, to babysit for her infant son, neither woman has any inkling of how interconnected their lives will become—and how their friendship will force them to question everything they previously believed about class, privilege, and opportunity. Intimate and unflinching, Friends and Strangers offers a wry take on the mysteries of adulthood. It’s a master class in compassionate storytelling and a brilliant reminder that growing older doesn’t necessarily mean growing up.
Sullivan's intimate, incisive latest (after Saints for all Occasions) explores the evolving friendship between a new mother and her babysitter. After journalist Elisabeth Ronson moves with her husband, Andrew, and infant son, Gil, from Brooklyn to Upstate New York, Elisabeth struggles with the demands of motherhood and faces loneliness and disconnection. Then she hires Sam O'Connell, an art student at the nearby women's college, to babysit. Elisabeth likes the upbeat Sam, though she has misgivings about Sam's 30-something boyfriend, Clive, who proves to be untrustworthy,. Elisabeth and Sam correspond over Christmas break while Sam visits Clive in London and Elisabeth spends the holiday entertaining her parents and in-laws at home. Elisabeth and Sam argue about Clive, and Elisabeth's father-in-law, George, provides another source of tension: Elisabeth finds his leftist rants tiresome, while Sam, via email, takes encouragement from George to campaign for improved working conditions on her campus, and struggles to understand if Elisabeth sees her as a friend or employee. Observations on domestic and social interactions add weight to Sullivan's inquiry into Elisabeth and Sam's interior lives, showing where the cracks seep into their friendship. Readers will be captivated by Sullivan's authentic portrait of modern motherhood.
A book of a young mother in a new town who relies perhaps too heavily on her college aged nanny
A young mom who moves out of NYC and has stopped working while on maternity leave is struggling to find her footing in a new suburb that’s hours away from her old home. She puts in an ad up at local college and finds a nanny for her son while she’s getting back into part time writing again and soon she begins to form a friendship and strong reliance on her nanny. She crosses her bounds with the girl in the end by making a calculating call to a friend to get her a coveted job interview which would keep her in the city instead of moving to London to live with a boyfriend who’s too old, who has been lying to her about a previous marriage and she believes she’s doing her nanny a favor. It all falls apart in the end.