Women and Children First

Alina Grabowski

“A striking debut from a brilliant new voice. Alina Grabowski perfectly inhabits her characters, shining a light on the multidimensionality of both grief and adolescence with great humor and insight.” 

- Sarah Jessica Parker, SJP Lit

A gripping literary puzzle that unwinds the private lives of ten women as they confront tragedy in a small Massachusetts town.





Page count




Sale date

May 7, 2024


6 x 9

About the Book

Nashquitten, MA, is a decaying coastal enclave that not even tourist season can revive, full of locals who have run the town’s industries for generations. When a young woman dies at a house party, the circumstances around her death suspiciously unclear, the tight-knit community is shaken. As a mother grieves her daughter, a teacher her student, a best friend her confidante, the events around the tragedy become a lightning rod: blame is cast, secrets are buried deeper. Some are left to pick up the pieces, while others turn their backs, and all the while, a truth about that dreadful night begins to emerge.

Told through the eyes of ten local women, Grabowski’s Women and Children First is an exquisite portrait of grief and a powerful reminder of life’s interconnectedness. Touching on womanhood, class, and sexuality, ambition, disappointment, and tragedy, this novel is a stunning rendering of love and loss, and a bracing lesson from a phenomenal new literary talent that no one walks this earth alone.


A Most Anticipated Book of 2024 by DebutifulOprah Daily, and Vogue • A Most Anticipated Book of Spring 2024 by the New York Times


“Magnetic . . . The ennui of small-town life is perfectly captured in the slice-of-life vignettes, which coalesce into a riveting set of Rashomon-style retellings. Grabowski shows immense promise.”

- Publishers Weekly, starred review

“In Grabowski’s craftily constructed and deeply moving debut, ten girls and women in a decaying coastal Massachusetts tourist town respond to the death of a teenager at a house party . . . Grabowski so deftly depicts the web of relations in this oppressively tight-knit community that it becomes evident how life changes for one character reverberate even for those who would seem outside her sphere of influence.”

- Booklist, starred review

“Girls and women inflict damage on each other by being too close and not recognizing their own agency and power, and also because disrupting systems of male privilege is difficult. Grabowski’s exploration of all these ideas makes for a brilliant novel. A smart, propulsive novel attentive to the ways community can fall short.”

- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“While a young woman’s violent death sounds like the setup for a murder mystery story, in Grabowki’s deft hands, it becomes something richer and more surprising: an opportunity to capture the people left in her wake at their most honest, flawed, and insightful. Once you get into these women’s heads, they will never get out of yours.”

- Oprah Daily

“[A] original, deeply affecting debut novel about complex women and the community they carry.”

- Real Simple

“Alina Grabowski’s Women and Children First (SJP Lit) is a novel built from interlocking stories, each chapter told from the perspective of a different woman living in a down-at-the-heels coastal New England town. In less capable hands, such rapid shifts might have a disorienting effect, but the book spins an entrancing web, the stories channeling the spirit of Mary Gaitskill and subtly building to reveal more and more about the town’s inhabitants. They include . . . the mother of a local teen who has died an untimely death. The cause of that death is the nominal mystery of Women and Children First, but the book is more about the secrets we keep and the lies we tell to remain hidden from one another.”

- Vogue

“I am a big fan of Women and Children First . . . Alina Grabowski is an astute and limber narrative artist and I could read her prose all day long and never grow weary.”

- Lorrie Moore, author of A Gate at the Stairs

“Wow wow wow! Alina Grabowski’s original and brilliantly written novel, Women and Children First, tells the story of a teenager named Lucy Anderson, who dies at a high school house party, through the lens of ten different women narrators—from her best friend to her principal to her mother. I was dazzled by the author’s skill and emotional depth.”

- Elin Hilderbrand, author of The Five-Star Weekend and The Perfect Couple

“Reading Women and Children First is like encountering the best kind of puzzle: each of its pieces is a small marvel, elegant and finely wrought. But then, the chapters snap together in the most satisfying way, creating a full picture that is as sweeping as it is nuanced. Here are friends and foes, past resentments and future hopes, all the mess and beauty of a complicated, compelling community. You won’t be able to put it down until the puzzle is complete.”

- Emily Nemens, author of The Cactus League

“Alina Grabowski is a writer of startling wisdom and deep humanity, and Women and Children First reads like a shimmering kaleidoscope of grief and longing, a magic lantern casting spectral illumination across dark surfaces of loss. Its pages smell like watermelon body lotion and low tide and fresh snow; they sing with moments of insight that took my breath away. Every voice is so compelling that I never wanted to leave it, but each new voice immediately seduced me—brought me into its own powerful portrait of intimacy and yearning, the cruelties and compassions that compose an adolescence, or a marriage. Together, these voices collectively summon the chorus of a ruptured community, gesturing toward those spiderwebs of attachment and betrayal that unmake us, and those moments of grace that ambush and rearrange us all.”

- Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams and The Gin Closet

Women and Children First so deftly captures the keen insight and angst of youth, girlhood, and womanhood. The characters here are complex and written with such intensity and clarity. The setting, too, is rendered in vivid, blue-hued color. This is a stunning, intricate, and multi-faceted debut from a writer whose long career I can’t wait to follow!”

- Kelsey Norris, author of House Gone Quiet

“A striking debut from a brilliant new voice. Alina Grabowski perfectly inhabits her characters, shining a light on the multidimensionality of both grief and adolescence with great humor and insight.” 

- Sarah Jessica Parker, SJP Lit