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Jenna Bush Hager has the perfect book for you to read this July while you take time to enjoy the summer sunshine. For this month, the Read With Jenna pick is "Friends and Strangers" by J. Courtney Sullivan.
“'Friends and Strangers' is a compellingly readable book that feels a little bit like a beach read, but at the same time tackles themes of acceptance of others and also of yourself," said Jenna.
Told from alternating perspectives of a young mom named Elisabeth and her nanny, Sam, this is a book about what it means to live an authentic, happy and purposeful life.
From the outside, Elisabeth seems to have it all. She has a beautiful baby, is married to a loving husband and is completing a three-book publishing deal. However, when she and her family move from their familiar Brooklyn neighborhood to her husband’s hometown in upstate New York, Elisabeth finds herself lonely and exhausted. She and her newly hired nanny, Sam, form an unlikely friendship that ultimately changes the course of their lives.
Book of the Month is a subscription-based book club that delivers hardcover books to your door at an affordable price. The first month is $9.99 with the code “READWITHJENNA,” and after that, it’s $14.99 a month.
Each month, subscribers choose one of the five featured titles of the month with the option to add-on up to two additional books for $9.99 each. As of Jan. 2020, the #ReadwithJenna pick will be available as an add-on option for subscribers. You can easily pause your subscription at any time or skip a month and roll your credit from one month to another. Just so you know, TODAY has a relationship with Book of the Month Club, so we make a share of revenue from purchases and subscriptions to Book of the Month Club.
For Sullivan, this book is not a far step outside of her own reality. In an interview with TODAY, she explained that she worked a nanny job in college where she formed a close relationship with the woman she worked for at the time. Now, the mother of two young children, she sees the story from both sides.
“I’ve been that young woman wondering what the future holds and how she’s going to pay off her student loans, and I’ve been the middle-aged mom doling out advice to babysitters in their 20s while I still am totally unsure how to handle aspects of my own life,” said Sullivan.
The novel takes on modern issues surrounding adulthood, motherhood and class. It also offers a broader look at issues we are facing as an American society.
"I wanted to explore American life in the pre-Trump years and sort of how we got here," said Sullivan. "The book very much digs into the gig economy, the shrinking safety net and the notion that privilege takes many different forms."
Elisabeth and Sam, both navigating very different points in their lives, each bring a unique perspective to the novel. With both voices, the reader can see their friendship play out from every angle.
Sullivan explains, "What happens in the world of this novel is what happens in the world, which is that people living along every point of the spectrum of privilege are thrown together and have to navigate how to coexist even as these disparities kind of hover in the background."
"Friends and Strangers" is just as hilarious as it is insightful and paints an authentic picture of modern motherhood and the power of female friendship.
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For more book recommendations, check out:
- 16 highly anticipated summer books you won't be able to put down
- 7 books to read right now, according to a New York Times bestselling author
- Looking for an inspirational story? 10 feel-good books to read right now
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