Women and Children First

Alina Grabowski

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.


“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

“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

“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

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

“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