I recently finished Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan, and I am still digesting this novel that focuses on the relationship between Elizabeth, a writer, and Sam, the college-aged young woman who Elizabeth has hired to watch her baby Gil.
Elizabeth has moved from Brooklyn to a small university town to be closer to her husband’s parents and is unhappy. Although she loves their new baby, she is beginning to resent her husband for wanting more kids, for quitting his job to try to become an inventor, and especially, for moving her away from her friends.
A published writer, Elizabeth is struggling after an unsuccessful second book to find inspiration and is under pressure to return to work in order to write a third, due to her husbands (aforementioned) unemployment status and because she’s loaned her life savings to her unreliable sister. At her wits’ end and feeling alone in the world, Elizabeth begins take a bit too much interest in the personal life of her nanny Sam, and the line between employer and employee begins to blur.
After several weekend dinners over wine, secrets are spilled, and Elizabeth begins to think that she knows what is best for Sam’s future. Despite good intentions, there is overstepping of boundaries and eventual betrayal in this new-found friendship.
Friends and Strangers would be a perfect choice for a book club to discuss, as it explores a myriad of topics—class and privilege, motherhood, coming of age, and the dangers of assuming that a person’s experiences are just like your own. I found myself struggling to put this book down until its satisfying conclusion. ~Carol