Book Review :: Women and Children First

Book Review of Women and Children First
Book Review of Women and Children First

Women and Children First by Alina Grabowski is a beautifully written story set in a small Massachusetts town. It involves the lives of mothers, daughters, sisters and friends and how they intersect around the death of a teenage girl. Grabowski’s poignant insights will remind many readers of Elizabeth Strout or Alice Munro. For those who know my taste, this is the high praise I intend it to be.

Lucy is a student whose death at a weekend house party shakes her community. There’s been an episode of cyber-bullying and at the same time, a popular teacher has been accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student. The events collide to create extensive accusations and suppositions among friends, parents and faculty. Focusing primarily on female characters, Grabowski exposes just how deeply our lives are rooted in community while exploring relationships – those that are fragile and strong – and how very often it is impossible to tell the difference.

Using age, gender, socioeconomic status and education, Grabowski has a lot to say about the opportunities life offers. Small towns are a rich context for diving into these issues, and Grabowski is efficient in how she uses her characters to that end.

I also love a book with interesting structure. This story is told in ten episodes, each focusing on a different character whose life has in some way intersected with Lucy. The narrator of each story grows in their closeness to Lucy – beginning with a school acquaintance and ending with Lucy’s mother. In addition, the first five stories lead chronologically to the night of Lucy’s death while the second five stories lead chronologically away from it.

I’ve found shorter fiction by Grabowski, but as far as I can tell, this is her first novel. Supposing that’s the case, I’m really looking forward to more by this emerging writer. This would make an excellent book club discussion.


I was provided an advanced reader copy of Women and Children First by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. To learn more, go to Women and Children First by Alina Grabowski will be available on May 7, 2024.


Book Club Prompts for Women and Children First

Trace Lucy’s connections with each of the narrators.

While the book primarily focuses on women and their relationships, there are several men (Rob, Charlie, Eric) who weave throughout and have significant roles. What do these characters and their relationships with the various females in the book contribute to the narrative?

There are at least three older male / younger female relationships in the story: Jane and Rob, Natalie and the unnamed “Founder”, and Rae and Charlie. How are the relationships similar or different? Are there other similar relationships?

The novel is comprised of 11 women’s stories, but only 10 have a voice. How would the book be different if Lucy had been given her own chapter?

How does the structure of the narratives (as mentioned in the review) contribute to the novel as a whole?

Considering the various mother / daughter relationships in the novel, how does socioeconomic status impact these relationships?

Does Lucy’s art give you any insight into what you think happened the night of her death?

What do you think Brynne will find on the flash drive?


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