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 best-selling author of Maine and Saints for All Occasions (named one of the Washington Post's Ten Best Books of the Year and a New York Times Critics' Pick).
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.
About the Author
J. Courtney Sullivan is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Commencement, Maine, The Engagements, and Saints For All Occasions. Her work has been translated into 17 languages. Sullivan's writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, New York magazine, Elle, Glamour, Allure, Real Simple, and O: The Oprah Magazine, among many others. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and two children.
A SheReads Most Anticipated Book of 2020
"This book pokes at the sometimes troubling relationship between caregivers and mothers, and what starts out as a sweet and straightforward story evolves into something more nuanced and complex." —Vogue
"Readers should jettison any expectation they have for the book--fish-out-of-water story, manipulative-nanny chiller, send-up of campus culture. J. Courtney Sullivan's fifth novel offers something more interesting... Friends and Strangers is about whether the unfairness of privilege can ever be sufficiently offset by good deeds. And what of bad deeds: Are they forgiven if they result from good intentions?... . Sullivan massages her themes in scenes as barbed as they are funny, by way of characters as infuriating as they are heartbreaking." —Shelf Awareness
"Sullivan... writes with empathy for her characters even as she reveals their flaws and shortcomings. And while the story she tells focuses primarily on two women from different backgrounds and at different stages of life, it also illuminates broader issues about money, privilege, and class; marriage, family, and friendship; and the dueling demands of career and domesticity with which many women struggle. This perceptive novel about a complex friendship between two women resonates as broadly as it does deeply." —Kirkus, starred
"Sullivan’s intimate, incisive latest explores the evolving friendship between a new mother and her babysitter... Readers will be captivated by Sullivan’s authentic portrait of modern motherhood." —Publishers Weekly
“Friends and Strangers is a smart and deeply compelling exploration of female friendship and the complicated politics of motherhood and childcare. J. Courtney Sullivan is a shrewd and sympathetic observer of our current cultural moment, with an unerring eye for the way that the unspoken realities of money and class can affect even our most intimate relationships.” —Tom Perrotta, best-selling author of The Leftovers
“J. Courtney Sullivan is one of our great literary treasures, and Friends and Strangers is permeated with her brilliance and heart. The novel is a captivating, wise, laugh-out-loud-funny story about the life-changing friendship between Elisabeth, a new mom, and Sam, her college-age babysitter. I loved this novel from the first word to the last." —Ann Napolitano, best-selling author of Dear Edward
“I have long been a fan of J. Courtney Sullivan's insightful and rich novels—Friends and Strangers is her best yet! Sullivan has a stunning ability to capture the tenderness and frailty of human relationships. Her newest is a poignant, wise, big-hearted novel full of complicated women doing their best and striving to do better. I loved it.” —Taylor Jenkins Reid, best-selling author of Daisy Jones & The Six
“J. Courtney Sullivan is a writer of extraordinary gifts, and this is her most affecting book yet, which I just wanted to keep reading and reading straight through to its climactic and emotional last pages, because its world felt completely realized, and completely real. Sullivan is a writer who offers up small human moments and large social ones, all within the frame of a truly good story. I loved it.” —Meg Wolitzer, best-selling author of The Female Persuasion