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Friends and Strangers book review

Over the last 2 years I have read over 48 books. I started 2019 with a goal to read one book a month, in 2020 I went into the New Year with a goal of reading 36 books. 2021 is here, I am continuing to read books with the goal to enjoy, engage, and relate to different reading material. With that being said, I finished my first book of 2021 and want to share some of my thoughts.

I read Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan which is about a new mom (Elisabeth) and her relationship with her hired babysitter (Sam). The book explores motherhood, power dynamics, and privilege in its many forms, Friends and Strangers reveals how a single year can shape the course of a life.

The two main themes that stuck out to me are privilege and boundary setting, these are two spaces which I have been exploring and thinking about the past few months so a perfect place to start.

Elisabeth is a White woman who moves from the gentrified area of Brooklyn, NYC to a suburban area of a college town. She has an estranged relationship with her wealthy father who has supported her financially, yet, she believes herself to be a self-made woman. Sam on the other hand comes from a large middle class family who cannot afford to pay for her college, yet, privilege is still in the works in her life. Sam attends the all-girl private university in the town where Elisabeth lives and while she has to work tirelessly harder than her classmates she forms relationships with the girls who come from money giving her access to people, and an education (even though she took out loans). This book shows us that privilege can be a varied of things, education, where you grow up, access to people and their recourses, even language. These two women maneuver a relationship with one another as they’re oblivious to their own privileges and how it has shaped their lives and understandings.

The second theme is boundaries, neither of these women know how to set or respect boundaries. Elisabeth is keeping secrets from her husband confiding in Sam which puts her in an uncomfortable situation. Sam crosses boundaries by involving herself into conversations and making decisions which affect the people around her suggesting she knows what’s best for them. Altogether, communication is non-existent and lies are thrown around religiously. These women interfere with other people’s lives without any remorse, then try to justify their actions. Boundaries clearly need be set, revisited, respected and adhere to, however, it can be hard to set boundaries with people who are not self-aware. The main problem both Sam and Elisabeth share is that when making decisions and committing to things they only think about themselves and how it will benefit their present instead of the future, both women are selfish, non-self-aware and it’s not surprising that they become acquaint so easily.

Key takeaways for me

1. Mind my business especially when others have asked me to.

2. Secrets don’t make friends and will strain all and any relationships.

3. Privilege looks different for everyone. What privileges do I have that can allow me to help others.

4. Respecting others and my own boundaries will only strengthen my relationships.

I would encourage all and everyone to read the book, it is entertaining and can be a great a lesson if you choose to examine the themes and how they relate to your life. I borrowed the book from my local library, so consider supporting your local library or shopping a small book store. Happy Reading!

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