Friends and Strangers

J. Courtney Sullivan. Knopf, $26.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-525-52059-7
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. (June)
Reviewed on : 02/19/2020
Release date: 06/23/2020
Genre: Fiction
Book - 978-0-525-43647-8
Compact Disc - 978-0-525-53216-3
Paperback - 565 pages - 978-0-593-21474-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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