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J. Courtney Sullivan’s celebrated debut novel is a sparkling tale of friendship and a fascinating portrait of the first generation of women who have all the opportunities in the world, but no clear idea about what to choose.
Assigned to the same dorm their first year at Smith College, Celia, Bree, Sally, and April couldn’t have less in common. Celia, a lapsed Catholic, arrives with a bottle of vodka in her suitcase; beautiful Bree pines for the fiancé she left behind in Savannah; Sally, preppy and obsessively neat, is reeling from the loss of her mother; and April, a radical, redheaded feminist wearing a “Riot: Don’t Diet” T-shirt, wants a room transfer immediately. Written with radiant style and a wicked sense of humor, Commencement follows these unlikely friends through college and the years beyond, brilliantly capturing the complicated landscape facing young women today.
“Sullivan tells an involving story of four students from different backgrounds who share quarters at Smith College. . . . Chick lit with depth and engagement.” —New York Daily News
“Sullivan’s debut novel, Commencement, works like a backstage pass to a world I barely knew existed—the elite contemporary women’s college, the world of Smithies—with their rampant anagrams (including my favorite, S.L.U.G., Smith Lesbian Until Graduation), fluid and complex sexuality, eccentric traditions, arch politics, and, most of all, incredibly deep and enduring friendships.” —Bridget Asher, author of My Husband's Sweethearts
“Sullivan has honed in on so much of the utter anguish of adolescence and young adulthood. Her characters are brilliantly flawed, intensely realistic, thoroughly compassionate, and often incredibly funny.” —BookPage
“Commencement is an accomplished, compulsively readable novel about the intricate bonds of female friendship. A literary page-turner at once entertaining and moving.” —Dani Shapiro, author of Black & White
“In the spirit of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep and Mary McCarthy's The Group, J. Courtney Sullivan delivers an engrossing, multi-layered tale of women, friendship, and the fascinating institution of higher education that shapes and influences them. Commencement is the can't-put-it-down novel that you will recommend to your best friends this summer.” —Elin Hilderbrand, author of Barefoot
“I was deeply engaged by the characters and their complexity. . . . One of the differences between fiction and literature is that the latter thrives on layers of ambiguity and ambivalence, and in Commencement I see the launch of a literary career.” —Nicholas Kristof, nytimes.com
“Sullivan writes with a verve and ambition that makes the novel’s four friends into real women, besieged—as real women are—by confusion, joy, and compromise. I enjoyed every page of Commencement.” —Martha Moody, author of Best Friends and The Office of Desire