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Stranger Care

Stranger Care: A Memoir of Loving What Isn’t Ours

Sarah Sentilles

May you always feel at home.

After deciding not to have a biological child, Sarah Sentilles and her husband, Eric, try to adopt a baby through foster care. Knowing that the system aims for reunification with the birth family, they open their home to a flurry of social workers who question, evaluate, and prepare them to welcome a child into their lives—even if it most likely means giving that child up.

After years of starts and stops, the phone call finally comes: a three-day-old baby girl, Coco, in urgent need of a foster family. Sarah and Eric bring this newborn stranger home.

‘You were never ours,’ Sarah tells her, ‘yet we belong to each other.’

A love letter to Coco and to the countless others like her, Stranger Care shares Sarah’s discovery of what it means to mother: in this case, not just a vulnerable infant, but also the birth mother who loves the child too. Coco’s story is a reminder that we depend on family, and that family can take many different forms.

Sarah Sentilles, author of the acclaimed Draw Your Weapons, brings her powerful prose and fearless compassion to an intimate subject with universal concerns: What does it mean to mother? How can we care for and protect one another? And how do we ensure a better future for life on this planet?


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Sarah Sentilles
About the Author

Sarah Sentilles is the author of Draw Your Weapons, Breaking Up with God, A Church of Her Own and Taught by America. A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Divinity School, she lives in Idaho’s Wood River Valley.

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4 May 2021
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Praise for Sarah Sentilles
andStranger Care

‘A beautiful, harrowing, and profound memoir about what it means to love and to mother, to belong and let go…I found myself holding my breath as I read…I love this book so much it hurts. It’s a powerful, heartbreaking, necessary masterpiece.’

‘This is the only book about parenting that I would recommend to anyone, because it strikes at the essential, complicated and heartbreaking core of what parents do every moment of every day: love…No matter what.’

‘A gripping and beautiful memoir about marriage, family, bureaucracy, community, heartbreak and hope. With wisdom and honesty, Sarah Sentilles shares a personal story that is also a story about how we live…and why we must find new ways to love and care for one another.’

‘A book that calls us to redefine what it means to have and make a family, to expand our understanding of what and who belongs, and to care more and better for those around us…It broke my heart wide open in the best possible way.’

‘Breathtaking and heartbreaking and smart and hopeful…I less read Stranger Care than inhaled it, in the first place because I genuinely could not put it down but mostly because it felt like this story entered my bloodstream and changed me…This is a memoir for everyone.’

‘An illuminating and heart-wrenching look at the foster-care system…Sarah’s personal experience as a foster parent, combined with her reportorial examination of a deeply flawed system, makes Stranger Care a transformative revelation.’

‘This book is sublime in its craft and its heart. Sentilles’ power is not only that her message about our shared humanity comes as revelation—that our personal and collective survival depends on converting pain into love. Her power is that she leads by example in this stunning book.’

‘Be warned: your heart will be altered by Stranger Care. Sarah Sentilles has written a book that the whole damn world needs to read—a book on caring, on radical empathy, on how to hold rage and grief and pure love simultaneously within the body. In language that strikes and soars and sings, Sentilles honours the child at the centre of Stranger Care. In doing so, she shows us all how we might better look after each other.’

‘How far can we extend our care and compassion? What does it take to love people who stand in the way of our desires? Full of the urgency of mother-love, Stranger Care is heartrending: at once harrowing and tender, bruising and wise.’

‘Beautifully written and elegantly structured, Stranger Care is both gripping and meditative. Sarah Sentilles invites us not only to think about our vulnerability and interdependence, but to feel them. This is a book for everyone because it goes to the heart of the human condition. It is a book about love.’

‘Sentilles beautifully and profoundly expands our understanding of what it is to mother, to tend, to love. Her prose has a clear-eyed quality that is truly breathtaking…She reminds us of our shared humanity through this beautiful and brutal story…I doubt I will read a more profound and powerful book for a long while. This is the kind of book that alters you, makes you kinder, opens your heart up.’

‘This generous book burns with an inextinguishable vulnerability that will scorch your heart.’

‘Heart-searing…With a sharp eye for the details that fill their days with joy, counterweighted by the sorrows that bring the couple to their knees, Sentilles uses the sheer power of her writing to lift their story above the failures of flawed adults and to remind us of the human heart’s limitless capacity for hope.’

‘If you don’t know Sarah Sentilles you should seek her out. Go read her earlier books. She’s a writer of uncommonly beautiful creative nonfiction her pages filled with grace and honesty…The honesty and humanity in this book is astonishing.’


‘Sentilles is uncommonly wise and brave. The honesty and humanity in this book is astonishing.’

‘Exquisite… Sentilles gives a powerful sense that caring is an individual and collective act.’

‘One of those authors who inspires devotion, no matter the topic. She invites the reader inside her thought process as she wrestles with ideas, in a way that is both generous and gorgeously articulate.’

‘A must read for anyone who wants to hear about different approaches to making a family.’

‘A profoundly moving account that I cannot recommend highly enough…I could continue to gush about this memoir but I will simply say that this is a tale full of heart and heartbreak, and you cannot read it and come out the same on the other side. Indeed, you can only emerge a more compassionate human being, the way Sarah has.’

‘A heartbreaking and poignant examination of what it means to be a mother.’

Stranger Care is the story of what happens when the unassuageable love of parents meets blind bureaucracy and the incontestable claims of blood. It is also an account of one couple’s ordinary heartbreak that expands outward, testing our assumptions of what kinship may consist of, asking what love we owe those beyond the usual parameters of family.’

‘ [A] heart-wrenching memoir about the role of the foster parent.’

‘This book demands an empathy that is difficult to qualify.’

‘I loved it…I cried many times as I read this book, and felt not just moved but honestly, literally rearranged by it—as if, on the other side of feeling shattered by it, I was also built up again differently.’

‘A personal and intimate story.’

‘[A] surprising and substantial collaborative effort.’

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