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Friends and Strangers

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  12,008 ratings  ·  1,386 reviews
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
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published June 30th 2020 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  12,008 ratings  ·  1,386 reviews

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Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
In Friends and Strangers, we follow two women: Elizabeth as she moves from the city to the suburbs after having a baby, and her babysitter Sam, a student at the local university. Each is trying to figure out her own path. Elizabeth is adjusting to post-baby life while keeping a secret from her husband. And Sam is trying to balance college life with her much-older boyfriend while making post-graduation plans.

This book started off with a bang for me. For the first 100 pages, I was riveted and coul
Jul 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
J. Courtney Sullivan writes a slow paced human drama, an emotional, insightful and compassionate look at a new mother and her babysitter's relationship as she peels back the layers beyond the initial idolisation and friendship between employer and employee. Elizabeth, a recent transplant to a small town in upstate New York, a new mother with a much wanted IVF baby, is a writer leaving NYC with her husband, Andrew, for a more rural idyll with family close by in the form of Andrew's family. Howeve ...more
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Friends and Strangers explores the relationship between Elizabeth, a new mom and writer, who has recently relocated from New York City to a small town with her husband, and Sam, an ambitious college senior who is planning for the next steps in her life. Elizabeth hires Sam to watch Gil, her baby, a few days week while she works on her next book.

The story alternates between Sam and Elizabeth and over time, the two women grow close. I liked both of them and found different perspectives from each
Taylor Reid
Aug 27, 2020 added it
Shelves: 2020
J. Courtney Sullivan has a really great ability to detail the complexities of womanhood and family. And here she’s tackling young motherhood in a way that, as a parent of a toddler, felt viscerally real for me. But there’s a lot more going on here, too. If you liked Maine, or any of Sullivan’s novels, you’ll like this one, too.
Jun 28, 2020 marked it as dnf
DNF at 50%

Unfortunately, I have to let this one go. The writing is good and I can relate to a lot regarding the perspective of being. A young mother, but it’s a lot of talking about issues and nothing is happening. I’m not really feeling connected or invested in any of the characters either.

I was really looking forward to this too. I’ll definitely give her next book a try and encourage others to consider this one. I just know it isn’t for me at the moment.

Thank you to Knopf Publishing and Edel
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I listened to “Friends and Strangers” by J. Courtney Sullivan, performed by Kate Rudd. I loved it. Rudd did a fantastic job, and the story is compelling to me as a mother and a past babysitter.

In an interview with NPR, Sullivan said that she got the idea after she had a baby herself. She had been a babysitter for a woman when she was in college and grew close to the mother of the child she babysat for. For Sullivan it was a memorable relationship; yet the mother didn’t recall their relationship
Ron Charles
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
“Babysitter,” “nanny,” “caregiver,” “au pair” — we have many names for the people we welcome into our homes to tend what is most precious to us. As parents know, it’s a relationship fraught with anxiety, caught up in our need to work and our hunger for freedom. In a world without butlers and liverymen and cooks, the babysitter is the only domestic employee most of us will ever hire. How should we regard this person we’re so proud to pay a tad more than minimum wage, this almost-relative who migh ...more
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
This book, about the relationship between Elisabeth and her babysitter Sam, grew on me. By the end, I was totally invested and wished for more. There were times while reading that I yelled out loud at Elisabeth who is conflicted and SO self absorbed. Sullivan did an admirable job capturing both their lives and providing insight into the world around them.
Solid, engrossing and page-turning read that kept me engaged and entertained even through, wait for it, suffering a freak caterpillar sting attack on a camping trip. Yep, that’s a thing! - at least if you hang out in or near the National Forests of Virginia, it is! Thanks again, 2020! However, thanks also to this book for keeping me preoccupied and distracted amidst caterpillar-induced trauma.
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars

This novel was...disappointing but average. I thought I would love it. New motherhood! Female friendships! Figuring it out! But I was bored and I kept waiting for it to ~get good~. I could see what the author was trying to do, but it didn’t connect. The snootiness of Elisabeth made me cringe and hope I didn’t sound like that around my friends, but I’m sure that was the point. Halfway through I did realize this is the white version of Such A Fun Age however the plot was not as strong and
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
Idk... this one felt like a good written piece of literature, however, completely lacking in climax or some sort of movement. It felt to me like a very poor imitation of Sally Rooney 🤷🏻‍♀️ The characters felt static and hard to relate to (especially Sam and her white savior tendencies) and Elizabeth too with ‘let me look elsewhere but my life. Fell flat.
Jul 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable and insightful exploration of a unique friendship between two women who couldn’t be more different.

Elizabeth is an accomplished writer and new mother trying to adjust to life in a small town after nearly 20 years in New York City. Alone with her infant son all day, she feels uneasy, misses her NYC friends and neglects her writing.

Sam is a senior at the local women’s college struggling with decisions about her future. She is worried about exorbitant student loan debt, her rom
Jennifer Fariss
Jul 09, 2020 rated it did not like it
Honestly, I want to give this book ZERO stars, but I'm not a monster. This is the second book club pick from Jenna that I went for two fails. Fool me once, shame on you...fool me twice....

Ugh...this is the most forgettable book of all time. It is literally about NOTHING. So much nothingness, and I'm not sure how she filled 400 pages.

I wish I could have just put it down and not finished, but I kept thinking SURELY this is building up to SOMETHING. And the something was such a dul
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 ...more
Jul 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
This was.... not a good book. I kind of hated all of the main characters and started hate reading the end to see how it turned out. I genuinely was not rooting for anyone here- I think Elizabeth is just an awful person, her husband is like a shell of a person, and Sam is just.... kind of a dumb person. Don’t even get me started on Clive. Would not recommend. To anyone. There was no real story here. I’m sad this is how I finished my book challenge 🤣🤣
Aug 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Friends and Strangers offers a look into the lives of two women who are at very different stages of their lives yet end up providing the friendship each one is in need of. Elizabeth is an accomplished author and new mom. Her husband is a bit of a dreamer. They leave their Brooklyn home to live in upstate New York near a small women’s college. Samantha (Sam) is a senior at the college. A talented artist, Sam is trying to decide which path her life should take after graduation. As graduation appro ...more
Aug 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Friends and Strangers by J Courtney Sullivan is a leisurely paced, emotionally insightful, contemporary drama that explores topics such as motherhood, female friendships, wealth distribution, power, privilege, complexity of relationships and also a bit of politics and social media.

The story alternates between Elizabeth and Sam, the two primary characters. Elizabeth is a writer and new mom, and has recently relocated from the city (NYC) to a small college town, where her husband is a college pro
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
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.
Elisabeth is a journalist who has successfully published two previous narrative non-fiction books. She is trying to write a third. She is a new mother of 6 month old Gil. She needs to find a nanny to care for Gil so she can buckle down and write the book.

Sam is a 21 year old senior at the local women's college. She has nanny experience. She is the perfect person to be Gil's nanny. She had served as one when on an extended stay in London. While on that trip, she meets Clive, a man in his thirties
Dinah Moore
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-with-jenna
I thought this book was good, not great.
George was my favorite character and I cannot stop seeing the Hollow Tree theory all around me.
I think the book is very realistic in that we sometimes let small rifts and just life in general come in between friendships like with Sam/Gaby and Sam/Elisabeth.
I was secretly hoping Sam bought Faye and George’s house.
I was happy for Gwen.
I was not shocked by Willa.

“The hardest lessons were the ones you had to learn over and over again.”
Nawal Q Casiano
Apr 08, 2020 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
The strength of this book was in the well-developed, believably human characters the author has created. There are a lot of themes in the book - suburban motherhood drama, true family and friends, women’s and worker’s rights, etc. It’s almost too many things to make a cohesive narrative, but the author wove them together well.
Emelie Gaughan
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
My favorite by this author so far!

I've read Commencement and Saints For All Occasions and really enjoyed both, but this one kept me reading long into the night. The plotline and the characters are equally compelling and I am always so blown away by how Sullivan can write such relatable characters of any age. She has both range and a knack for getting to the center of the human condition, making us see our own reflections in the thoughts that the characters have.

Definitely pick this up!
Amal Bedhyefi
Oct 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
The kind of books that would bring a much-needed comfort on gloomy days.
Mary McBride
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
J Courtney Sullivan is a master at complicated relationships. This is the story of two friends and their unlikely bond. One is the mother of a young son and the other is the babysitter whom she has hired. . Both have family, wealth and class issues and turn to each other for support.
Her writing is comfortable and her characters are complex and human. This was a good distraction from current issues. I really enjoyed it.
Maureen Grigsby
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I could hardly put this book down. In the first few pages, I thought it was going to be a light, frothy kind of novel, but pretty quickly, Sullivan pulled me deep into her novel. This just reminds me that I need to read more of her backlist!
Anika  | Chapters of May
Oct 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Friends and Strangers follows the lives of two women: Elizabeth and Sam. Elizabeth is a new mother, who moves from the city to the suburbs with her husband. Sam is a college student trying to balance school, her relationship, and her job as Elizabeth’s babysitter. Both women are trying to find their path, despite being at different stages in their lives.

I love Sullivan's insightful and intriguing writing. This element is what makes the novel entertaining, even when the plot dipped in excitement.
Sep 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5/5 - I really enjoyed this story of a friendship that develops between a NYC writer/new mother who moves to a small college town and the student who takes a job babysitting for her young son. Even though the two women are at very different stages of life, they fill a void that each is missing, and a regrettable choice is made that changes the course of their futures.
Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've read all of Courtney Sullivan's books, and I think she just gets better and better. This is a multi-layered story with many moving parts and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not your usual or expected ending, either. Can't wait to see what comes next!
Angela Demott
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is hands-down my favorite book of 2020 thus far and certainly J. Courtney Sullivan's strongest novel. is an extremely readable story, full of realistic characters, dialogue, and inner monologues, but it's also very much an exploration of inherited and sought-after privilege within different socioeconomic classes and how that privilege works to one's advantage and, occasionally, disadvantage. I haven't really read many contemporary novels that tackle this timely theme, and it makes for a re ...more
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J. Courtney Sullivan is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Commencement, Maine, The Engagements, and Saints For All Occasions. Maine was named a Best Book of the Year by Time magazine, and a Washington Post Notable Book for 2011. The Engagements was one of People Magazine’s Top Ten Books of 2013 and an Irish Times Best Book of the Year. It is soon to be a major motion picture prod ...more

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“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” That’s Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani human rights...
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“As you made your way through life, there were people who stuck, the ones who stayed around forever and whom you came to need as much as you needed water or air.” 3 likes
“The bond between parent and child was all-consuming, and yet its power was not cumulative. It had to be remade again and again throughout the course of a lifetime. A mother could do everything right early on, and still, if she failed to renegotiate the terms, all would be lost.” 2 likes
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