Laura & Emma

Laura & Emma




“[A] sly, charming debut…Laura and Emma’s struggles are real, and their saga makes for a beguiling, addictive read.”—People (Book of the Week)

Laura hails from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, born into old money, drifting aimlessly into her early thirties. One weekend in 1981 she meets Jefferson. The two sleep together. He vanishes. And Laura realizes she’s pregnant.

Enter: Emma.

Despite her progressive values, Laura raises Emma by herself in the same blue-blood world of private schools and summer homes she grew up in, buoyed by a host of indelible characters, including her eccentric mother, who informs her society friends and Emma herself that she was fathered by a Swedish sperm donor; her brother, whose childhood stutter reappears in the presence of their forbidding father; an exceptionally kind male pediatrician; and her overbearing best friend, whose life has followed the Park Avenue script in every way except for childbearing. Meanwhile, the apple falls far from the tree with Emma, who begins to question her environment in a way her mother never could.

Told in vignettes that mine the profound from the mundane, with meditations on everything from sex and death to insomnia and the catharsis of crying on the subway, a textured portrait emerges of a woman struggling to understand herself, her daughter, and the changing landscape of New York City in the eighties and nineties. Laura & Emma is an acutely insightful exploration of class and family warfare from a new author whose offbeat sensibility, understated wit, and stylish prose celebrate the comedy and pathos that make us human.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501156601 | 
  • March 2018
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Laura & Emma includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and an author Q&A. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Laura is born into old money on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She lives her life purposefully and practically until a one-night stand with a stranger. In a turn that surprises her entire family, she announces her plans to have the child that she tells them was conceived with the help of a Swedish sperm donor.

Enter Emma, who grows to be Laura’s frank, independent daughter who sometimes craves her mother’s emotional attention, and sometimes despises Laura for her consistent obedience to the unwritten rules of WASP society. In Kate Greathead’s debut novel, she walks you along with Laura and Emma, year by year, as they encounter their own privilege, sexuality, and the death of loved ones in the late eighties and early nineties of New York City. With a cast of characters who pop in to reveal something new about the protagonists, Laura & Emma is a deep story about a mother and daughter—two odd ducks who don’t quite know what to do with each other. As the city’s landscape changes around them with the passing year see more

About the Author

Kate Greathead
Pete Pin

Kate Greathead

Kate Greathead is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Her writing has appeared in The New YorkerThe New York Times, and Vanity Fair, and on NPR’s Moth Radio Hour. She was a subject in the American version of the British Up documentary series. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the writer Teddy Wayne. Laura & Emma is her first novel.