Friends and Strangers
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.

Friends and Strangers Details

TitleFriends and Strangers
Author
ReleaseJun 30th, 2020
PublisherKnopf Publishing Group
ISBN-139780525520597
Rating
GenreFiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Adult, Adult Fiction

Friends and Strangers Review

  • Jamie
    January 1, 1970
    This book was a miss for me and I skimmed over a lot. The characters were hard to relate to and hard to even like. This author is a hit or miss for me and even though I liked the beginning of this book it just didn’t work for me. Thanks to Edelweiss for my advanced ebook copy.
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  • Natalie
    January 1, 1970
    Elisabeth and Sam are very interesting characters in another enjoyable Sullivan novel. Again, Sullivan shows a unique understanding of women and friendship. It also explores the relationship between mother and nanny, between boss and servant, and between sisters. Sullivan was able to insert some very interesting minor characters, especially George, an interesting firebrand in his town. The sibling relationship was also explored by Elisabeth’s relationship with her sister Charlotte. I was very in Elisabeth and Sam are very interesting characters in another enjoyable Sullivan novel. Again, Sullivan shows a unique understanding of women and friendship. It also explores the relationship between mother and nanny, between boss and servant, and between sisters. Sullivan was able to insert some very interesting minor characters, especially George, an interesting firebrand in his town. The sibling relationship was also explored by Elisabeth’s relationship with her sister Charlotte. I was very interested in the struggle over child readiness in a marriage and how that can be negotiated. Obviously this is a novel that reading groups will enjoy exploring. I liked it a lot, but not as much as Sullivan’s earlier novels. Thank you Netgalley for this opportunity to read this novel.
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  • Kris Patrick
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you, NetGalley! I am grateful for you! Last month I was vibrating with excitement over receiving advance copies of J. Courtney Sullivan and Curtis Sittenfeld new titles. Both were disappointments. I'm trying to figure out whether their worked has changed, if I've changed that much as a reader, or most likely, a combination of both.
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  • SundayAtDusk
    January 1, 1970
    This is a 400-page story about Elisabeth and Sam. Elisabeth is a published author in her 30s who has moved to a college town where her in-laws live. Her husband is pursuing an invention idea, and she is supposed to be working on her third book, while caring for their infant son. While Elisabeth has met the other women on her street, and is even in a book club with them, she doesn’t want to pursue a friendship with any of them. Instead, she regularly communicates with her best friend back in Broo This is a 400-page story about Elisabeth and Sam. Elisabeth is a published author in her 30s who has moved to a college town where her in-laws live. Her husband is pursuing an invention idea, and she is supposed to be working on her third book, while caring for their infant son. While Elisabeth has met the other women on her street, and is even in a book club with them, she doesn’t want to pursue a friendship with any of them. Instead, she regularly communicates with her best friend back in Brooklyn, and constantly reads the posts in an online mother’s group.Sam is a senior at a women’s college in the town Elisabeth moved to, and is trying to focus on both her studies and her boyfriend in London. She is from the middle-class, while most of the young women in her dorm are from upper-class homes. This helps Sam to notice the imbalances between the classes, and makes her more keenly aware of the struggles of the immigrant women who work in the food service department at her college. She works along with them at times, as a campus job, and considers them her friends, as she does many of the upper-class girls in her dorm. Her British boyfriend is a self-employed tour guide in his 30s, who is pushing her to get married when she finishes school. After seeing a job notice on a school bulletin board posted by Elisabeth, Sam goes to interview at Elisabeth's house. She gets the job and not only becomes Elisabeth’s babysitter, but also Elisabeth’s friend and confident. This friendship ends up both helping and hindering the two women in various ways, but there are no “devastating consequences” due to a betrayal, as the book’s description states. Thus, do not expect some tragic incident in this story. Simply expect lots of talk about friendship, college roommates, money issues, employment, pregnancies, IVF procedures, mommy depression, class differences, family problems with parents and a sister, both unhappy and happy childhood memories, happiness and unhappiness with men, kids and babies, etc. I really want to call this novel”chick lit", but sometimes fear that’s a reductionist type of label. Yet I fear this book is nowhere near as important, in regards to friendship and social issues, as it appears to want to be. In fact, at times it seems like the type of story that is trying to “educate” the reader on topics, as opposed to the topics coming up in conversations and thoughts in a more natural way. There are lots of conversations about trivial matters that easily could have been cut from the novel, too, with no loss whatsoever to the reader. In addition, the epilogue raises more questions than provides answers and insight. All in all, a somewhat insightful story about modern young women, but not really anything to write home about. A review is all I could write about this book.(Note: I received a free ARC of this book from Amazon Vine.)
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  • Nawal QC
    January 1, 1970
    Verdict is still out on whether or not I recommend this fiction story about a mom and her babysitter, which ultimately sank into issues of wealth, class, relationship deceit, boundaries and life choices. There was almost too much there in terms of content and also in the writing: no detail left unnamed. Often, I asked myself why I should care. But I laughed aloud at a few parts, identified at times with the characters, and descriptions of a certain Brooklyn mama group were astute. Cue shoulder s Verdict is still out on whether or not I recommend this fiction story about a mom and her babysitter, which ultimately sank into issues of wealth, class, relationship deceit, boundaries and life choices. There was almost too much there in terms of content and also in the writing: no detail left unnamed. Often, I asked myself why I should care. But I laughed aloud at a few parts, identified at times with the characters, and descriptions of a certain Brooklyn mama group were astute. Cue shoulder shrug.
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  • Alisa
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars. Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of "Friends and Strangers" for my honest review. I loved "Saints for All Occasions" which was J. Courtney Sullivan's last book. This soon to be released novel is an intimate look at a relationship between two women; the privileged writer Elisabeth, a wife and new mother recently exiled from Brooklyn to a small college town in upstate New York, and Sam, the somewhat naive student babysitter who is enamored of Elisabeth and her s 3.5 stars. Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of "Friends and Strangers" for my honest review. I loved "Saints for All Occasions" which was J. Courtney Sullivan's last book. This soon to be released novel is an intimate look at a relationship between two women; the privileged writer Elisabeth, a wife and new mother recently exiled from Brooklyn to a small college town in upstate New York, and Sam, the somewhat naive student babysitter who is enamored of Elisabeth and her seemingly effortless sophistication. While this is a well written novel, it is hard to find much relatable in the snobbish Elisabeth. The character of Sam, genuinely kindhearted but caught up in a less than ideal extended holiday romance with a much older London tour guide, is far more sympathetic. Having recently read "Such a Fun Age" by Kiley Reid, a debut novel that also deals with the complex relationship between a sitter and her seemingly well intentioned but emotionally obtuse employer(also lovely and wealthy), it was at times hard to read Sullivan's novel without being reminded of Reid's. Both stories deal with class, privilege, and life filtered through social media, though "Such a Fun Age" has the added complexity of race (which Friends and Strangers only lightly touches on).All in all, Friends and Strangers was an enjoyable read, if not as emotionally resonant as I had hoped.
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    Elizabeth (30-ish) comes from a wealthy, disfunctional, emotionally distant family. Sam (20) comes from a financially struggling, loving and caring family. Elizabeth is trying to fit in with her new community in a small town in upstate New York. After living in NYC, she's finding her neighborhood peers to be a bit provincial. Sam, a scholarship student, is trying to fit in with her rich classmates. She feels more comfortable with the women who work in the college cafeteria where she has a part-t Elizabeth (30-ish) comes from a wealthy, disfunctional, emotionally distant family. Sam (20) comes from a financially struggling, loving and caring family. Elizabeth is trying to fit in with her new community in a small town in upstate New York. After living in NYC, she's finding her neighborhood peers to be a bit provincial. Sam, a scholarship student, is trying to fit in with her rich classmates. She feels more comfortable with the women who work in the college cafeteria where she has a part-time job. When Elizabeth hires Sam to babysit a few days a week, the two strike up a friendship, based on their mutual sense of uprootedness, that extends beyond an employer/employee relationship. Sam puts Elizabeth on a pedestal, which Elizabeth inevitably falls off. Although the story has two main characters, it's really Sam's coming-of-age story. Sullivan is excellent at creating 3-dimensional characters. The book shows how difficult it is to make the right decisions for others, when we can't even make good decisions for ourselves. The drawback to the story for me was how unreal Sam's life was. You would think a scholarship student would not have enough time during the school year to make multiple trips to London, babysit a few days a week, AND work in the college cafeteria. Meanwhile, amidst all the drama in Elizabeth's life, she manages to write a book. For these reasons, I'm giving a 3-star rating.
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  • Candace
    January 1, 1970
    Courtney Sullivan moves away from her stories about unruly--and entertaining--Boston Irish families to take a different look at women's friendships. "Friends and Strangers" is about Elisabeth and Sam, two very different women who are brought together in a college town. Elisabeth's from New York, a published writer who is supposed to be working on a new novel while caring for a new baby. They've moved to town to be near inlaws and so her husband can work on an invention. Sam is a student at the w Courtney Sullivan moves away from her stories about unruly--and entertaining--Boston Irish families to take a different look at women's friendships. "Friends and Strangers" is about Elisabeth and Sam, two very different women who are brought together in a college town. Elisabeth's from New York, a published writer who is supposed to be working on a new novel while caring for a new baby. They've moved to town to be near inlaws and so her husband can work on an invention. Sam is a student at the women's college, from that large Boston Irish family, who is hired by Elisabeth as a nanny.As usual, Sullivan weaves important family and social issues into the story in a seamless way. The woman is a master at creating relatable, believable family dramas, affecting books that are hard to put down. I was a huge fan of "Saints for All Occasions" and found this novel similarly addictive. "Friends and Strangers" is a large and wonderful book about so many things, all of which resonate with living in the world today.Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for granting access to this enjoyable novel.~~Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader
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  • Sheri
    January 1, 1970
    Friends and Strangers tells the story of two women at a crossroads in their life. Sam, a senior at an all girls college, has signed on to babysit Elisabeth's baby, Gil, part-time. The women indulge in a quick friendship, relying on one another for honest insight as Sam prepares to adjust to a new more grown up life outside of college and Elisabeth adjusts to her new life in a small town. Both women, however, find themselves dealing with personal demons, elitism and privilege. Sullivan's latest n Friends and Strangers tells the story of two women at a crossroads in their life. Sam, a senior at an all girls college, has signed on to babysit Elisabeth's baby, Gil, part-time. The women indulge in a quick friendship, relying on one another for honest insight as Sam prepares to adjust to a new more grown up life outside of college and Elisabeth adjusts to her new life in a small town. Both women, however, find themselves dealing with personal demons, elitism and privilege. Sullivan's latest novel comes from the point of view of both women, telling a tale of a relatable coming of age story with decisions and situations from two separate points in a person's life. She does such a spectacular job drawing you into the lives of Sam and Elisabeth that you feel like you know these people personally. I had a hard time letting go of this novel, so much so that I found myself up at all hours to finish it! An easy and insightful read, Sullivan fans will not be disappointed.**Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC version of this novel.
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  • Laurielib
    January 1, 1970
    I was fortunate to receive an ARC of J. Courtney Sullivan’s latest book, Friends and Strangers. I’m a big fan of Sullivan’s earlier works and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s a powerful story of friendships, women, society, families, love, marriage and the overlapping communities that exist among all these relationships. Elisabeth, a respected author, has just moved from Brooklyn to a small college town where her husband grew up. Approaching middle age and after IVF they are parents to an infan I was fortunate to receive an ARC of J. Courtney Sullivan’s latest book, Friends and Strangers. I’m a big fan of Sullivan’s earlier works and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s a powerful story of friendships, women, society, families, love, marriage and the overlapping communities that exist among all these relationships. Elisabeth, a respected author, has just moved from Brooklyn to a small college town where her husband grew up. Approaching middle age and after IVF they are parents to an infant son. Adrift and needing to start on a third book, she hires Sam, a college student, to babysit. Both are a little star struck with the other’s familial relationships and lives. And the friendship develops into more than an employer/ employee relationship. But cracks and deception creep into the picture creating a hard to out down story that will deeply resonate with the reader. Loved this one.
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  • Jayme
    January 1, 1970
    Elisabeth is a journalist and new mother who is trying to adjust to life in the suburbs and deal with her complicated relationship with her wealthy parents. Sam is an earnest, creative college student who faces a choice between her head and her heart. Their relationship starts off businesslike, when Elisabeth hires Sam to babysit while she works on her next book, but quickly turns into a complicated friendship as their lives blend together and their deepest secrets are revealed. J. Courtney Sull Elisabeth is a journalist and new mother who is trying to adjust to life in the suburbs and deal with her complicated relationship with her wealthy parents. Sam is an earnest, creative college student who faces a choice between her head and her heart. Their relationship starts off businesslike, when Elisabeth hires Sam to babysit while she works on her next book, but quickly turns into a complicated friendship as their lives blend together and their deepest secrets are revealed. J. Courtney Sullivan explores class, gender, motherhood, privilege, and power through these interesting characters and their relationships. Her writing is engaging and easy to read, and the details she peppers throughout help make the characters believable and sympathetic. Readers who like Curtis Sittenfeld and Anna Quindlen will probably enjoy the complex characters and issue-related conflicts in this book.Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for giving me an eARC of this book.
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  • Bonnie
    January 1, 1970
    I got a free advanced copy of this at PLA (Public Library Association conference) in Nashville this year. The narrative centers on two women: one a new mother from an affluent NY background who has recently relocated upstate to allow her husband to follow his dream of inventing a solar-powered grill; the other, a college student from a modest background attending an elite women's college. The characters are well constructed with believable and compelling inner monologues. Each woman's situation I got a free advanced copy of this at PLA (Public Library Association conference) in Nashville this year. The narrative centers on two women: one a new mother from an affluent NY background who has recently relocated upstate to allow her husband to follow his dream of inventing a solar-powered grill; the other, a college student from a modest background attending an elite women's college. The characters are well constructed with believable and compelling inner monologues. Each woman's situation is interesting on its own, but it is really the relationship between the two that centers the story. Running underneath is an undercurrent of social critique on economic inequality that gradually and then explosively lurches to the surface.I would recommend this to readers who like literary fiction. It's not a thriller or a genre piece. Just good old-fashioned literary fiction.
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  • Rosanna
    January 1, 1970
    I absolutely loved this book! I have read most of this author’s previous books, The Engagements being one of my favorite books, in general. I love how the two female characters in this book, Elisabeth and Sam, were so well developed and so real. I am older than the two of them, but reflected back to when I was their ages. I made some poor and unselfish choices and decisions them, but not quite to the magnitude as they did. I think this book helps to put those instances in context and makes us re I absolutely loved this book! I have read most of this author’s previous books, The Engagements being one of my favorite books, in general. I love how the two female characters in this book, Elisabeth and Sam, were so well developed and so real. I am older than the two of them, but reflected back to when I was their ages. I made some poor and unselfish choices and decisions them, but not quite to the magnitude as they did. I think this book helps to put those instances in context and makes us realize that we are going to continue to face challenges as we go through life. Hopefully we learn from those challenges.This book is a light beach read, but will definitely give you something to chew on if you’re looking for a deeper read this summer.Thank you to Edelweiss and Knopf Publishing for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.
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  • Chelsea
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to read this in exchange for my honest review. This was a very well-written and character-driven novel about two women, each at different stages in their lives. Elisabeth is well-off and married with a baby, while her babysitter Sam is in college and struggling with a long-distance relationship. They become unlikely friends, and their differences become quite obvious throughout the novel.This was a slow-moving book in which not a lot happened. I also felt like Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to read this in exchange for my honest review. This was a very well-written and character-driven novel about two women, each at different stages in their lives. Elisabeth is well-off and married with a baby, while her babysitter Sam is in college and struggling with a long-distance relationship. They become unlikely friends, and their differences become quite obvious throughout the novel.This was a slow-moving book in which not a lot happened. I also felt like the point the book was trying to make on classism wasn’t quite made - it didn’t hit hard enough. However, I still enjoyed reading it very much. The author is very good at writing believable characters and dialogue.
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  • Nancy Mijangos
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Elisabeth meets Sam when she hires her as a part-time sitter for her infant son. They forge a friendship that changes both of their lives. Sam is vulnerable and sees herself as less privileged than her wealthy classmates. As someone who worked in the college cafeteria, she identifies witn the cooking staff. She tries to help them in their struggles with administration, and things do not go according to her plan. In I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Elisabeth meets Sam when she hires her as a part-time sitter for her infant son. They forge a friendship that changes both of their lives. Sam is vulnerable and sees herself as less privileged than her wealthy classmates. As someone who worked in the college cafeteria, she identifies witn the cooking staff. She tries to help them in their struggles with administration, and things do not go according to her plan. In return. Elizabeth's helping Sam doesn't go according to plan either. I identified with the characters and could see my own actions in some of their manipulations done in the name of love and perhaps unwitting selfishness as well
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  • Ellen
    January 1, 1970
    This author is a favorite of mine, but this book was not one of her best. The relationship between Elisabeth, a young mother and author moving away from Brooklyn to a small town upstate NY, and Sam, a college senior not sure of where she was heading, was a complicated one. I didn’t really feel close to either character, and as Elisabeth’s lies to her husband, and Sam’s naïveté with her English boyfriend, Clive seemed a bit much, the story lost steam. I liked the social classes theme, and the sno This author is a favorite of mine, but this book was not one of her best. The relationship between Elisabeth, a young mother and author moving away from Brooklyn to a small town upstate NY, and Sam, a college senior not sure of where she was heading, was a complicated one. I didn’t really feel close to either character, and as Elisabeth’s lies to her husband, and Sam’s naïveté with her English boyfriend, Clive seemed a bit much, the story lost steam. I liked the social classes theme, and the snobbishness of the nouveau rich, but all in all, a bit disappointing. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC.
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  • Marcia
    January 1, 1970
    I liked this book about two women, Sam and Elisabeth. Sam is college student and also Elisabeth's nanny. They each have their own lives, but also become friends. Is it a healthy friendship? Who does it benefit most? I felt the story was more about Sam than Elisabeth. We actually get some closure and Sam's life. Elisabeth is left a bit in the air about how she reaches the point she's at when they last meet. I thought the book was well-written and brought up a lot of issues to think about. Would b I liked this book about two women, Sam and Elisabeth. Sam is college student and also Elisabeth's nanny. They each have their own lives, but also become friends. Is it a healthy friendship? Who does it benefit most? I felt the story was more about Sam than Elisabeth. We actually get some closure and Sam's life. Elisabeth is left a bit in the air about how she reaches the point she's at when they last meet. I thought the book was well-written and brought up a lot of issues to think about. Would be good for a book discussion group.
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  • James Beggarly
    January 1, 1970
    Brilliant book about two women. A NYC journalist has a child and she moves to a small college town upstate with her husband. Cut off from the life she’s known for twenty years, she gets childcare help from a senior at the college and the two women become so much to each other, confiding large secrets and overstepping so many boundaries. Thrilling book with the best characters I’ve read so far this year.
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  • Kelly Hill
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. This was really fantastic. It started off a little slow for me, but still enjoyable. About half way through it became a "can't put down." But what I thought was going to b a book about the relationship between two women, one married, seemingly privileged, and her nanny, a student who views herself as not being privileged, turned into a beautiful novel that explored the relationships women have with each other, their partners, in addition to race and class relationships. Loved it!
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  • Joanne
    January 1, 1970
    I love this author. She's an excellent writer and so good at creating three dimensional characters. This book is about a new mom who tries to get used to her recent move to the suburbs while dealing with family issues. It's also about her babysitter, a young college student with an older, overseas boyfriend. Unfortunately, there really isn't much of a plot. Hence just 3 stars from me. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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  • caitlin
    January 1, 1970
    Review copy courtesy of Edelweiss.Sullivan writes a dueling narrative of a Brooklyn transplant mom who feels above her new suburban NY home and her nanny, a college student grappling with white privilege as she tries to help her private liberal arts cafeteria worker friends succeed. It’s an interesting novel to come out now as you can see the divide between how each character feels they are not privileged and instead woke but there is a very clear disparity between them and others.
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  • Keturah
    January 1, 1970
    I have very much enjoyed J. Courtney Sullivan’s prior books, so I was highly anticipating this one. I have to say I was disappointed and found it highly forgettable. The writing, as in her prior books, was good. The story, however was slow to get into and just never really grabbed my interest. The ending felt rather predictable.I would recommend readers choose one of Sullivan’s earlier works over this one.I received an ARC through Edelweiss.
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  • Abigail
    January 1, 1970
    I received an early copy via Netgalley. I'm a fan of J. Courtney Sullivan and enjoyed this story of a new mom and her college-aged nanny. The details about mommy Facebook groups feel are pretty funny. A fun read to escape into other people's problems for a few days and all the secondary characters are well developed.
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  • Shoshana G
    January 1, 1970
    I read this at the start of #quarantime and it was fine, but didn't stick with me. I think I might have liked it better if I hadn't recently read Such a Fun Age, which I thought dealt with mom/nanny relations in a slightly more interesting way. I did think this book dealt with class thoughtfully and interestingly, but ultimately it wasn't that memorable.I read an e-ARC through NetGalley.
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  • Sue
    January 1, 1970
    I was first drawn to J. Courtney Sullivan when she wrote about Maine. The main character in this book attends a small college in Maine. How lives entangle and how we form relationships with those we are roommates, employees or casual friends is fascinating? The role of the college president to the students vs the workers is very insightful!
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  • Kirsten
    January 1, 1970
    I do get tired of the trope of New Yorkers moving to a small town and subsequently looking down their noses.... but this one is pretty well done. Lots of interesting characters here, although the New Yorkers really were all horrible snobs.
  • Janine
    January 1, 1970
    "The love was an astonishment. Every time she looked at him, she felt a shock of wonder at how close she had come to never knowing it."I love pretty much everything J. Courtney Sullivan writes. So much of this one felt like it came directly from my own brain.
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  • Carly Thompson
    January 1, 1970
    Good contemporary fiction about class and money differences, women's friendships, and women's ambitions. Sullivan is an excellent contemporary writer - her writing is thought-provoking while still being light enough for a beach read.
  • Willow
    January 1, 1970
    I loved Maine and was excited to read this -- I was NOT disappointed. Received a copy through Netgalley and started reading Saturday morning. Literally ignored my kids the whole day until I finished. It's funny and compelling and I loved Elisabeth and Sam.
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  • Melissa
    January 1, 1970
    A new J. Courtney Sullivan book is always a cause for celebration, and I just couldn't wait to dig into this one. Loved.
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