BOOK STEW REVIEW: ‘Friends and Strangers’ by J. Courtney Sullivan

Below is the latest Book Stew Review from Eileen MacDougall, the host of the 80+ episodes of Book Stew, a 30-minute video and podcast devoted to writing in all forms, featuring authors, playwrights, voice artists, and journalists.

‘Friends and Strangers’ by Mary Beth Keane

The novel of generational differences also draws on class conflict, widening the theme and making it an outstanding examination of womens’ choices and consequences.

Author and mom Elisabeth leaves behind her beloved Brooklyn when her inventor husband receives a job offer at a college in what is clearly Northampton/Amherst, MA.

She hires Smith College (not disguised but unnamed) scholarship student Samantha as a part-time nanny, and the women become completely (and overly on Elisabeth’s part) entwined in each other’s lives.

Sullivan extensively explores campus and community activities — Sam’s at Smith, with her kitchen co-workers, and Elisabeth’s father-in-law’s, in league with his retired men friends. There is only a sprinkle of women of color (the horrible Smith College president, a student, and cafeteria workers), and Sam’s romance with a weedy Englishman grabs too many pages, but the writing is lovely and the plot is even more compelling than the characters.

My early choice for a 2021 Top Ten.

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