Stranger, Father, Beloved

Stranger, Father, Beloved

A Huffington Post “2017 Hottest Reads of The Summer” Pick

“Taylor Larsen creates a powerful and moving story about the fracturing of a family and its descent into chaos. A brilliant debut of self-delusion, and a perfectly flawed male character spiraling downward.” —Huffington Post

An “emotionally intelligent family drama” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), in the tradition of Tom Perrotta’s Little Children, about a wealthy man who reaches a crossroads after a lifetime of repression, sending his family into a slow spiral towards a breakdown.

When Michael James sees his wife Nancy chatting with a stranger at a party, his intuition tells him that he’s watching her with the man she should have married. He quickly begins a campaign to replace himself within his own family with this other man—who, to him, is worthier, better, and kinder—all so his faithful wife Nancy, his beautiful teenage daughter Ryan, and his young son Max can live the lives they deserve.

While Michael pursues this man’s friendship, Ryan goes through a period of sexual awakening and rebellion and distances herself from her family, and the quiet, weak Nancy becomes increasingly befuddled and frustrated by the behaviors of her husband and daughter. As tension and uncertainty build in their home, the James family slowly unravels.

With the quiet intensity of the film American Beauty and the emotional sensitivity of Lorrie Moore, Taylor Larsen creates a powerful and moving story about the fracturing of a family and its descent into chaos.
  • Gallery Books | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501124778 | 
  • April 2017
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Stranger, Father, Beloved includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. 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.


Michael James seems to have it all: a successful career, a supportive wife and two kids, a Cape Cod–style home on Rhode Island’s coveted “Peninsula.” Yet he regrets abandoning a promising career in academia, becoming estranged from his best friend, and being incapable of relating to his spouse, Nancy, as an intellectual equal. He struggles with paranoia and insomnia, disorders that feed a low-level but constant sense of inadequacy. Then when Michael notices Nancy talking to one of his party guests, John, with a sense of ease and pleasure he has never seen in her, he realizes his family might be better off without him. Determined to atone for his ambivalence as a husband and father, Michael begins to devise a way to bequeath his marital duties to John, a strong and capable landscaper. Meanwhile, Michael’s daughter, Ryan, is discovering her sexuality as puberty begins to transform her body into something both envied and desired. She learns how to wield cruelty when her relationship with the free-spirited mother o see more

About the Author

Taylor Larsen
Photograph by Sylvie Rosokoff

Taylor Larsen

Taylor Larsen is a graduate of Columbia University's MFA program in fiction writing. Taylor taught fiction writing at Columbia University as part of the Columbia Artist/Teachers faculty and at The Sackett Street Writers Workshop, as well as literature courses for Pace University. Stranger, Father, Beloved is her first novel. Originally from Alexandria, Virginia, she currently resides in Brooklyn, New York with her husband.