Friends and Strangers
by J. Courtney Sullivan
📖 | Genre: Fiction
⭐️| Rating: 3.75/5
📚| Review: A slow-paced and character-driven story, Friends and Strangers is a surprisingly compulsive read about the complex relationship between a suburban mother and her college-student nanny. Elisabeth, a writer from NYC, moves to a small college town to follow her husband’s dream. As a new mom, Elisabeth is struggling to find her own identity in her work and in her new community. Enter Sam: a college senior working to pay her own way through an elite college and manage her long-distance relationship with her British boyfriend.
This novel dives into the similarities we can share with people double our age or from different socio-economic backgrounds. J. Courtney Sullivan also asks us to questions the ways we navigate those relationships when the things that set us apart come to the forefront and how the decisions we make can often times speak louder than the words we say. The overall tone of the book is judgmental. It’s not written to make you root for or empathize with either character. Both protagonists make their fair share of mistakes and lean into their flaws but not enough so that they’re completely hopeless. Some of situational conflicts are relatable, especially some of what Sam goes through during her last year in college. Other times though the problems were presented in more of a gray area with a unclear, murky resolution. Throughout the narrative, an undercurrent of “better-than-you” pulses, something that turns me off as a reader.
Ultimately, Friends and Strangers made for underwhelming, easy reading as the latest installment in this oddly niche sub-genre that focuses on naïve nanny and wealthy suburban mother. In my opinion, Such a Fun Age did that so-called “trope” best. The mother-nanny relationship isn’t groundbreaking enough where we need copycat stories or other authors trying to emulate with their own spin off. This plot makes for unrelatable reading that spoils good writing and well-developed characters.