“My father proposed to my mother at gunpoint when she was nineteen, and knowing that she was already pregnant with a dead man’s child, she accepted.”

Thus begins this riveting story of a woman’s quest to understand her recently deceased mother, a glamorous, cruel narcissist who left her only child, Elsie, an inheritance of debts and mysteries. While coping with threats that she suspects are coming from the cult-like spiritual program her mother belonged to, Elsie works to unravel the message her dying mother left for her, a quest that ultimately takes her to the South African family homestead she never knew existed.

A Best Book Pick of 2017

Refinery 29

Foreword Reviews Favorite 2017

Foreword Reviews

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Best for Bookclubs Selection

"A felicitous find."

Library Journal


Good Housekeeping

"MOTHERS AND OTHER STRANGERS is a memorable first novel, a delightfully twisty gothic with the strange and eerie urgency of a fable or a dream."   

Dan Chaon, National Book Award nominee and author of ILL WILL

“Whom do we really belong to and why? This dark, gorgeous jewel of a novel probes the secrets we keep and the complex ties of family, love, and loss. Shattering and brilliant, this marks the debut of an astonishing talent.”

Caroline Leavitt, New York Times–bestselling author of Pictures of You, and Cruel Beautiful World

"A stunning debut, Mothers and Other Strangers, grips from page one, a perfect weave of suspense and of insight about how people love and hurt one another, and sometimes heal, and sometimes cannot. I highly recommend this novel, and look forward - impatiently - to Gina Sorell's future work!"

Robin Black, author of Life Drawing

“A young woman’s investigation of her mother’s mysterious past uncovers disturbing revelations about love, family and the fragile bonds that both connect us and tear us apart. An absorbing, sensitive novel that confirms the troubling reality that it’s often the people closest to us who do the most harm.”

Elizabeth Brundage, author of All Things Cease to Appear

"Gina Sorell has written a complex mystery of the human heart in her poignant debut novel, Mothers and Other Strangers, exploring how the emotional riddle of our parents shapes our lives well into adulthood. To paraphrase Philip Larkin, they screw you up, your mom and dad. Sometimes they intend to hurt you as deeply as they’ve been hurt. The quest in this wise novel is to realize that the path to healing a childhood wound passes through understanding the strangeness of one’s parents, and accepting it, or not. This book is a must read for anyone who has struggled to understand their own parents.” 

Robert Eversz, author of Shooting Elvis  

"This compelling debut reveals the astronomical cost of harboring family secrets. Somehow Gina Sorell has managed to craft both a meditation on the messiness of mother-daughter bonds and a mystery that will keep you turning pages until the wee hours of the morning."

Michelle Brafman, author of Bertrand Court and Washing the Dead

“From the first shocking sentence of Gina Sorell's Mothers and Other Strangers I was hooked on the twisting ride of a woman who receives an inheritance of secrets, debt, and the mess left behind. With stunning prose and the danger of a thriller, Sorell reaches deep into a broken heart and finds what's still beating.

I am a fan!”

Susan Henderson, author of The Flicker of Old Dreams