“One of the year's most inviting summer novels. . . . A smart, discerning book about school years. . . . Sullivan introduces strong, warmly believable three-dimensional characters who have fun, have fights and fall into intense love affairs. . . . Gloria Steinem likes Commencement. She ought to; the women of Commencement are big fans of hers.” —The New York Times
“Wickedly sharp. . . . Ms. Sullivan’s voice is funny and smart. . . . A fun, fresh . . . insightful read.” —The New York Observer
"Offer[s] a witty take on the stereotypes of women's colleges, much as Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep did with elite boarding schools. . . . Sullivan's gifts are substantial." —The New York Times Book Review
“Manages to find that sweet spot between Serious Literature and chick lit. Commencement is a beach book for smart women.” —Entertainment Weekly
“This story about four Smith College students and the paths they follow post-graduation celebrates friendship and explores modern-day feminism. At the same time, it’s just a really devourable read—think a 2009 version of Mary McCarthy’s The Group.” —Cookie magazine
“Commencement is much more than a novel about academia or young women. It’s a thoughtful, engrossing study in lives transformed and relationships realigned, full of details and dilemmas that speak to a broad audience.” —The Onion’s A.V. Club
“Sullivan is a keen observer, with a wry sense of humor.” —Chicago Tribune
“Garnering rave reviews. . . [Commencement] delves into the complex choices young women face today.” —The Boston Globe
“Take Mary McCarthy’s The Group, add a new feminist generation striving to understand everything from themselves and their mothers to the notion of masculinity that fuels sex trafficking, and you get this generous-hearted, brave first novel. Commencement makes clear that the feminist revolution is just beginning.” —Gloria Steinem, co-founder of Ms.
“Brave. . . . Sullivan . . . excels at close-up portraits. . . . A novel with so much verve.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Sullivan writes fiction you might expect from a journalist: Her clean, precise prose stays carefully neutral and balanced, even as she shifts points of view from chapter to chapter. . . skillfully blending their stories. . . . Their struggles, reactions and decisions feel real. How they pull through—and pull together—proves inspiring.” –Philadelphia City Paper
“Convincing and unique.”—Elle (Winner of the Elle Readers Prize)
“As [Commencement] takes the women from their first shaky steps toward independence through the ups and downs of their 20s, you’ll relive—and celebrate—the stomach-dropping moments of the best friend-relationship roller-coaster.” —Redbook
“[An] intelligent, diverting debut.” —People
“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
“Totally entertaining.” —The New Haven Register
“[Commencement is] layered with love and honesty and promises that friendship perseveres when nothing else might or seems to.” —Glamour.com
“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
“Many writers have tried to duplicate The Group. . . J. Courtney Sullivan comes admirably close. McCarthy was very much of her era, and so is Sullivan.” –Entertainment Weekly
“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
“Sullivan’s description of Smith’s strange social mores are nuanced and precise, conveying with a refreshing sense of humor the challenges and frustrations that Smith brings while still making plain her deep love for the college. Women who read Commencement will undoubtedly feel a part of the sisterhood.” —Louisville Courier-Journal
“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
…one of this year's most inviting summer novels. It tells of four Smith College dorm mates who reunite for a wedding four years after graduation, and it manages to be so entertaining that this setup never feels schematic…Ms. Sullivan introduces strong, warmly believable three-dimensional characters who have fun, have fights and fall into intense love affairs
The New York Times
Sullivan…excels at close-up portraits. She alternates among the four friends' points of view chapter by chapter, giving each a believable particular personality and background…Sullivan's gifts are substantial.
The New York Times Book Review
It isn't quite love at first sight when Celia, Sally, Bree and April meet as first-year hall mates at Smith College in the late 1990s. Sally, whose mother has just died, is too steeped in grief to think about making new friends, and April's radical politics rub against Celia and Bree's more conventional leanings. But as the girls try out their first days of independence together, the group forms an intense bond that grows stronger throughout their college years and is put to the test after graduation. Even as the young women try to support each other through the trials of their early twenties, various milestones-Sally's engagement, Bree's anomalous girlfriend, April's activist career-only seem to breed disagreement. Things come to a head the night before Sally's wedding, when an argument leaves the friends seething and silent; but before long, the women begin to suspect that life without one another might be harder than they thought. Sullivan's novel quickly endears the reader to her cast, though the book never achieves the heft Sullivan seems to be striving for. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Graduating from college and moving into the "real world" is a rite of passage for many people. For Celia, Bree, April, and Sally, it's bittersweet to leave the confines of Smith College, where they all met. As first years, they bonded not only because they were new but because they lived together in the worst rooms in King House, third-floor maids' quarters. Celia's a Catholic schoolgirl, April an angry young feminist, and Bree the Southern belle who is already engaged, while Sally has just lost her mother to cancer. Despite these differences, they become best friends, and what they share at Smith carries them into their later lives-even as they go on to very different realities. Sullivan's first novel is a coming-of-age tale of young women in contemporary society where some of the battles of the women's movement have been won-but not all. The characters still face issues about sexuality, equality, and cultural expectations, and Sullivan's intriguing treatment partly refreshes the novel's familiar concept. For fans of contemporary women's fiction.
Four women meet at an all-female college and predictably remain constant allies as their lives unfold. Sullivan's unswervingly formulaic debut introduces Celia, April, Bree and Sally, united by their rooms on a shared hallway in King House at Smith. They instantly strike up enduring relationships despite their disparities. April, daughter of a radical single mother and the most overtly political, will later fall under the spell of a manipulative filmmaker. Bree, the Southern belle who arrives wearing an engagement ring, ends up an ambivalent lesbian with a lover named Lara. Celia, the most colorless, has a Catholic upbringing, aspires to write and gets a job at a minor Manhattan publisher. Neat-freak Sally, still grieving her mother's death, becomes the lover of a promiscuous professor of poetry but later marries happily, the ceremony reuniting the women four years after graduation. In among the boyfriends, confessions and aspirations, Sullivan tosses descriptions of Smith culture (lesbianism, food disorders), meditations on mothers and a strong dose of feminism. But the narrative is a monotone, rising to a few late peaks with Sally's pregnancy, Bree and Lara's break-up and an implausible development surrounding April, who disappears and is feared murdered during an investigation of child prostitution. Readable, but dated and lackluster. First printing of 50,000. Author tour to Boston, Western Massachusetts, New York, San Francisco. Agent: Brettne Bloom/Kneerim & Williams