‘Today Show:’ Jenna Bush Hager Goes With A Beach Read for Her July Book Club Pick

Jenna Bush Hager of the Today Show continues to report from home with her husband and three children during the coronavirus crisis. With summer now in full swing, Hager just selected the perfect beach read for this month’s pick of Read With Jenna.

Jenna Bush Hager of the 'Today Show'
Jenna Bush Hager of the ‘Today Show’ | Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank

‘Today Show’ gets interrupted

While co-hosting from home, Hager has had some unexpected guests crashing her broadcasts. As the mom of three – Mila, 7, Poppy, 4, and baby Hal, 10 months – Hager has some challenges being the only one on camera. One example involved a visit from Mila who was apparently having a disagreement with her little sister.

“She doesn’t want to go clean up her Barbies,” Hager revealed. “They’re in a little bit of a sisterly, remember sisters first?”

“She’s making me do everything. I don’t want to do it,” Mila reported while in her mermaid costume.

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“All right, she doesn’t want to clean up her Barbies,” Hager negotiated with her 7-year-old. “But can I help you later, maybe when I’m off this show?” Despite the interruption, the little girl’s surprise appearance was adored by Today viewers.

Jenna Bush Hager’s July pick

Going for a summer beach read with some complexities, Hager revealed her July selection of Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan on Today.

Friends and Strangers is a compellingly readable book that feels a little bit like a beach read, but at the same time tackles themes of acceptance of others and also of yourself,” Hager said on the morning news program. “It explores modern issues about motherhood, adulthood… and there’s some fatherhood issues in there too. More than anything it’s about what makes people happy, what drives us.”

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The novel focuses on the relationship between two women who are at different stages of life. A young mother named Elisabeth seems to have a fulfilling life with a young baby, loving husband, and thriving career. She hires college senior Sam as a nanny when she moves to upstate New York with her family. Told from alternating perspectives, the friendship that forms between the two women has a massive impact on both their lives.

J. Courtney Sullivan’s motivation in writing ‘Friends and Strangers’

Speaking to Today on her inspiration for Friends and Strangers, Sullivan incorporated her own experiences into the novel. Working as a nanny in college and having a close friendship with the mother she worked for, the author wanted to bring both perspectives to the book now that she has two children of her own.

“I’ve been that young woman wondering what the future holds and how she’s going to pay off her student loans, and I’ve been the middle-aged mom doling out advice to babysitters in their 20s while I still am totally unsure how to handle aspects of my own life,” Sullivan told Today.

Examining aspects of class and privilege as well as interpersonal themes, Sullivan shines a light on economic issues that have been accumulating over the past decade.

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“I wanted to explore American life in the pre-Trump years and sort of how we got here,” the author explained. “The book very much digs into the gig economy, the shrinking safety net and the notion that privilege takes many different forms. … What happens in the world of this novel is what happens in the world.”

Friends and Strangers is now on sale.