Elisabeth, an accomplished journalist and new mother, is struggling to adjust to life in a small town after nearly twenty years in New York City. Alone in the house with her infant son all day (and awake with him much of the night), she feels uneasy, adrift. She neglects her work, losing untold hours to her Brooklyn moms’ Facebook group, her “influencer” sister’s Instagram feed, and text messages with the best friend she never sees anymore. Enter Sam, a senior at the local women’s college, whom Elisabeth hires to babysit. Sam is struggling to decide between the path she’s always planned on and a romantic entanglement that threatens her ambition. She’s worried about student loan debt and what the future holds. In short order, they grow close. But when Sam finds an unlikely kindred spirit in Elisabeth’s father-in-law, the true differences between the women’s lives become starkly revealed and a betrayal has devastating consequences.
A masterful exploration of motherhood, power dynamics, and privilege in its many forms, Friends and Strangers reveals how a single year can shape the course of a life.
I loved the primary characters in Friends and Strangers, and how their connection started during one difficult year when each of the two women was exploring major changes in their lives. Their relationship morphs to one of friendship, but will they cross lines along the way?
Elisabeth is still struggling with whether or not to have another child, something she doesn’t really want, but she doesn’t have the courage to openly confront her feelings and the possible ramifications.
Sam is in a love relationship that is seemingly fraught and possibly inappropriate, but her need to move into her adult life with everything “sorted,” like she believes Elisabeth’s life has been settled, propels her into decisions that may upend her life and her plans in unexpected ways.
By the end, the crossed lines will ultimately change everything, but is it possible that what they meant to each other will have changed them in positive ways, too?
I didn’t want the year to end things between them, but like most seemingly important relationships that happen at crucial turning points, that year did serve its purpose. The friendship will have been important to each of them, turning significant and sentimental moments into treasures to cherish. 5 stars.