We Were Strangers Once


By Betsy Carter

Read by Suzanne Toren

Formats and Prices


This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 12, 2017. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

For fans of The Nightingale and Brooklyn comes an exquisite and unforgettable novel about friendship, love, and redemption in a circle of immigrants who flee Europe for 1930s-era New York City.

“Carter’s warm and beautiful prose brings us love, tragedy, mystery and hope in a moving celebration of America and the people who have come to it.” — Amy Bloom, New York Times bestselling author of Lucky Us and Away

On the eve of World War II Egon Schneider–a gallant and successful Jewish doctor, son of two world-famous naturalists–escapes Germany to an uncertain future across the sea. Settling into the unfamiliar rhythms of upper Manhattan, he finds solace among a tight-knit group of fellow immigrants, tenacious men and women drawn together as much by their differences as by their memories of the world they left behind.

They each suffer degradations and triumphs large and small: Egon’s terminally acerbic lifelong friend, bestselling author Meyer Leavitt, now wears a sandwich board on a New York street corner; Catrina Harty, the headstrong daughter of a dirt-poor Irish trolley driver, survives heartbreak and loss to forge an unlikely alliance; and Egon himself is forced to abandon his thriving medical practice to become the “Cheese Man” at a Washington Heights grocery. But their spirits remain unbroken, and when their little community is faced with an existential threat, these strangers rise up together in hopes of creating a permanent home. With her uncanny ability to create indelible characters in unforgettable circumstances, bestselling author Betsy Carter has crafted a gorgeous novel that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt adrift and longed for home.


  • "A moving story of loss, longing, and perseverance."
    A Best New September Release, Real Simple
  • "In this sharply observed historical novel, a web of friendships connect German Jews in pre-Hitler Germany after they emigrate to America. In their complex relationships and struggles both emotional and cultural, we are given insight into life at its most resilient and joyous. An important book to remind us of the humanity in the current wave of immigrants, and how much they have to offer us."
    Alice LaPlante, New York Times bestselling author of Turn of Mind
  • "Betsy Carter's warm and beautiful prose brings us love, tragedy, mystery and hope in a moving celebration of America and the people who have come to it."
    Amy Bloom, New York Times bestselling author of Lucky Us and Away
  • "Moving and intensely personal, this subtle novel of the immigrant experience in 1940s Manhattan boasts impressive and varied character development... There are multiple read-alikes here: Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale (2015) for Carter's lovely writing style and the pathos in her story; Dinaw Mengestu's The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007) for Carter's evocation of the poverty and yearning to belong that are so often the immigrant's lot; and Natasha Solomons' Mr. Rosenblum Dreams (2010) for Carter's endearing characters with their unbridled determination and positive attitude. A memorable, important, and insightful novel."
    Booklist, starred review
  • "This is a gorgeous, heartbreaking book... beautiful in its characters' resilience and reminders of the contributions immigrants have made to this country... Carter has created a vivid world... Their stories are unique and distinctive, and yet their struggles feel familiar. Could this be required reading for anyone who seeks to keep refugees out of this country?"
    Historical Novels Review
  • "The sights, the sounds, the fears, the disappointments, the hopes, the triumphs and the passion of a group of people are so real, readers will believe they are their friends and neighbors."
    RT Reviews
  • "I was carried through We Were Strangers Once by a story as swiftly paced affecting as the events that deposit its characters on wartime American shores. I believed in this desperate flotsam of immigrant souls, drawn with keen historical accuracy, humor, and a lackmaker's eye for detail. I didn't want to leave these benighted, unlikely lovers. Imagine: A literate, deft and moving binge read."
    Gerri Hirshey, author of Not Pretty Enough: The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown
  • "Historically accurate, warm, moving and easy to recommend."
    p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Helvetica}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}New York Journal of Books
  • "A gorgeous novel about a tight-knit group of immigrants in New York in the 1930s, sharing friendship, triumphs and disappointments as they try to forge new lives in a strange new land."
    New York Post
  • "WE WERE STRANGERS ONCE, though a work of historical fiction, demonstrates how difficult and stressful it was/is to arrive in a foreign land to begin a new life. We are reminded that, yes, we all were strangers here once and that the refugee experience continues to repeat itself today in many parts of the globe. What we see on the evening news is just a tiny glimpse of what strangers to any foreign land must endure and overcome."
    Book Reporter
  • "In this unsentimental yet affecting novel, intertwined tales of Irish and German immigrants to the U.S. vividly capture the characters and their eras. Taking its title from a Barack Obama quote, the book illuminates the experience of immigrants--and our conflicted promise to them--even today."
    People Magazine

On Sale
Sep 12, 2017
Hachette Audio

Betsy Carter

About the Author

The daughter of German immigrants, Betsy Carter is the author of the novels Swim to Me, The Orange Blossom Special, The Puzzle King, and We Were Strangers Once, as well as her bestselling memoir, Nothing to Fall Back On. She is also the creator and editor of NewYork Woman Magazine, and has worked at many other magazines, including Newsweek, Harper’s Bazaar, and Esquire.

Learn more about this author