May 10, 2021

Maggie Shipstead and J. Courtney Sullivan

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes award-winning, New York Times–bestselling novelists MAGGIE SHIPSTEAD and J. COURTNEY SULLIVAN for a discussion of their latest books—the newly published Great Circle, and new-to-paperback Friends and Strangers.


After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute uncle in Missoula, Montana. There—after encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat-up biplanes—Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight. At fourteen she drops out of school and finds an unexpected and dangerous patron in a wealthy bootlegger who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons, an arrangement that will haunt her for the rest of her life, even as it allows her to fulfill her destiny: circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles.

A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on Marian's disappearance in Antarctica. Vibrant, canny, disgusted with the claustrophobia of Hollywood, Hadley is eager to redefine herself after a romantic film franchise has imprisoned her in the grip of cult celebrity. Her immersion into the character of Marian unfolds, thrillingly, alongside Marian's own story, as the two women's fates—and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different geographies and times—collide. Epic and emotional, meticulously researched and gloriously told, Great Circle is a monumental work of art, and a tremendous leap forward for the prodigiously gifted Maggie Shipstead.

About Author(s)

J. Courtney Sullivan is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels CommencementMaineThe EngagementsSaints For All Occasions, and Friends and Strangers. Her work has been translated into 17 languages. Sullivan’s writing has appeared in the New York Times Book ReviewWashington PostChicago TribuneNew York MagazineElleGlamourAllureReal Simple, and O: The Oprah Magazine, among many others. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and two children.

Maggie Shipstead is the New York Times-bestselling author of the novels Great CircleAstonish Me, and Seating Arrangements, which won the Dylan Thomas Prize and the L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction. She is a graduate of Harvard and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, and the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. A frequent contributor to travel magazines, she is often away from her home in Los Angeles.